BYU men’s volleyball fights its way to a 3-2 win against UCSB

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The BYU men’s volleyball team competed for five sets against UCSB, eventually continuing its undefeated home court advantage with a narrow win (25-17, 25-22, 25-21, 25-18, 15-13).

“I thought (UCSB) played great, but I thought we outplayed them in a lot of areas,” said BYU head coach Chris McGown. “The blocks came alive for a little while and got us off track. But for the guys to regroup and play well the rest of the game, I was really impressed with our team.”

Senior Taylor Sander led the Cougars with 27 kills and eight blocks, tying his season highs in both areas. Sophomore Matt Underwood contributed to the fight with 11 kills, and sophomore Tyler Heap set up 56 sets throughout the match, setting his career-high record. Sophomore Michael Hatch aided with nine blocks.

Taylor Sander leaps to block a shot from a UCSB player in the game at the Smith Fieldhouse Friday night. Photo by Samantha Williams.
Taylor Sander leaps to block a shot from a UCSB player in the game at the Smith Fieldhouse Friday night. (Photo by Samantha Williams)

“(UCSB) is a really good team, and they played really well tonight,” Sander said. “We just had to battle to squeak this one out, and it always feels good to win. It doesn’t really matter how we win, but we got to battle and it was fun.”

BYU came out in the first set ready for a fight. Leading through the entire set, BYU went on a six-set run to end the match at 25-17.

The second set was another story. The Cougars trailed until they hit 11-11. From there the Cougars and Gauchos fought between points, and as soon as the Cougars pulled ahead 17-15, the Gauchos took over. With an eight-point run the Gauchos pulled ahead to 22-17, giving them just the momentum they needed to close the match at 25-22.

Set three was a similar story. The Cougars trailed all set. They never fell behind farther than four points, but they never closed the gap, giving the Gauchos the win at 25-21 and a 2-1 lead.

The match was on the line for the Cougars coming out for the fourth set. The set started neck and neck as both teams tied seven times until Sander pulled the Cougars out with a momentum-changing kill. The Cougars furthered their lead, coming to 19-14. Both teams rallied hard for this point, but junior Josue Rivera closed the rally with a powerful kill. The Cougars won the match 25-18.

Momentum continued in the Cougars’ favor in the fifth set. Sander came out killing three points in a row. Needless to say, the Cougars were ready for a fight. The Gauchos went on a five-point run, tying the score at 5-5, but Rivera killed the next point and BYU led the rest of the way. With a few key kills and blocks by Sander and Young and a powerful final point by Underwood, the Cougars came out on top with a 15-13, 3-2 win.

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