The No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team snagged a 3-1 win against No. 9 UCLA, taking over the No. 1 seed spot in the conference tournament (22-25, 25-22, 28-26, 25-21).
“That’s a big win for us,” said senior Taylor Sander. “I’d rather take a battle like that than an easy game. It is so fun when it’s a closely contended game like that and the Smith Fieldhouse is loud; it’s just so fun for us. It’s a blessing to play here for sure.”
It was BYU’s Senior Night in the Smith Fieldhouse honoring Taylor Sander, Devin Young and Nick Valencia and also claiming the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title. Only four conference games remain for the Cougars, making this the earliest the MPSF Championship has been claimed.
BYU will take on its quaterfinal match in the Smith Fieldhouse, and if the Cougars win they will also host the semifinals and championship.
Sander led the team with 23 kills and three blocks, supported by junior Josue Rivera with 11 kills and four blocks. Freshman Tim Dobbert aided with 10 kills and six blocks, and sophomore Tyler Heap put up 48 assists.
“I love to see the battle by our guys,” said head coach Chris McGown. “We found ourselves a little bit down in the third, and I thought Taylor (Sander) took over the match from there. It was an unbelievable performance. I thought we kept our composure throughout the whole match. It was an absolute battle, but I thought the guys made smart plays and were fundamentally strong.”
The first set started on a level playing field. UCLA and BYU fought between points, making it to 11-11 until UCLA started to take over. WIth a five-point run UCLA gained a lead of 16-11. Junior Jaylen Reyes had an impressive save to get the possession back to BYU, but soon UCLA took a 20-13 lead. BYU fought for a comeback, but UCLA took the match at 25-22.
The second-set momentum shifted between both teams until BYU took a four-point run and a lead of 15-11. With a few crucial kills by Sander and sophomore Michael Hatch, BYU took the set 25-22.
Both teams again traded off with the lead until both teams hit 13-13. UCLA took another run against BYU taking a 17-14 lead. But from this point on BYU’s “Sandman” (Sander) took over. With six kills, a block and a service ace, Sander led his team to a third-set win 28-26 and a 2-1 lead over UCLA.
The fourth set both teams were tied at 13 when Rivera made a momentum shifting kill, and again Sander took over. With four more kills from Sander and a kill from Young, BYU took a 25-21 win, beating UCLA 3-1.
BYU will be traveling to Hawaii next week and will take the Warriors on both Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m.