BYU squeaks by No. 5 USC in five-set thriller

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The Cougar volleyball team had a close call against the USC Trojans in a five-set match (16-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20, 15-10) that led to victory Saturday night in Los Angeles.

“It was a strange match, rhythmically,” said BYU head coach Chris McGown. “We alternated playing very well and very poorly.”

Josue Rivera led the Cougars with a season-high 15 kills in the 3-2 match.

Taylor Sander jumps to spike the ball over the net in the win over Long Beach. Photo by Maddi Dayton.
Taylor Sander jumps to spike the ball over the net in the win over Long Beach. (Photo by Maddi Dayton)

The fifth set was a point-by-point match until a kill by Carson Heninger and blocks by Devin Young and Josue Rivera gave the Cougars an 8-3 lead. USC caught up with kills by Robert Feathers and Andy Benesh, and BYU retaliated with kills of its own by Heninger and Taylor Sander to bring the score to 10-7. Another two kills by Sander and a kill by Michael Hatch brought the Cougars their win at 15-10.

“I thought we finally got a handle on the game plan and started executing that a little bit better towards the end of the match,” McGown said.

The Cougars fell behind in the first set after several kills by USC gave them a three-point lead at 6-3. Service errors and limited blocking by BYU increased the Trojans’ lead along with an incredible 17 kills during the set. A kill by Micah Christensen finished the set at 16-25.

BYU took the lead in the second set with two kills by Young at 4-2. USC kept pace until a kill by Heninger and Sander each, along with a block by Tyler Heap and Joe Grosh, gave the Cougars a 15-11 lead. Heninger completed the set with a block at 25-22.

The Cougars fell behind in the third set because of huge kills by USC. The Trojans had a big lead at 16-8 and continued until the set point. A service ace by Rivera gave the Trojans their win at 25-15.

The Cougars overcame a 5-1 deficit in the fourth set after kills by Sander, Hatch and Rivera. A service ace by Heninger tied the teams at 10. BYU kept momentum with more kills by Sander, Heninger and Young to bring them up 21-18. Service errors by USC and a block by Hatch and Heninger gave the Cougars the set at 25-20.

BYU plays Cal Baptist Monday at 7 p.m. PST before returning home.

“Cal Baptist is a good team,” McGown said. “We’re going to play hard, and we’re going to have to play clean to win.”

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