Opposite hitter Matt Underwood earned a career-high 17 kills in the BYU men’s volleyball team’s 3-0 defeat of the Long Beach State 49ers.
The Cougars’ Friday night win in the Smith Fieldhouse extended their home winning streak to 36 games. The last time men’s volleyball lost at home was Feb. 1, 2013, to Long Beach State, but BYU’s strong setting and offense prevented any chance of a repeat.
“The setters were really good tonight, both Tyler and Robbie,” Underwood said. “They were just putting me in good positions to be able to get tough swings and get kills.”
The 49ers’ missed serves won the first set for the Cougars. Underwood’s first four kills of the night helped, but nine of BYU’s 25 points came from Long Beach serving errors. The 49er defense helped them stay in the set as they forced errors at the end of long, scrappy rallies. But BYU eventually gained a 17-14 lead and didn’t let go. A block from Joseph Grosh and Josue Rivera gave the Cougars a set point, but BYU missed the serve. Long Beach missed its next serve as well, and BYU won 25-22.
The 49ers’ strong defense kept the second set neck-and-neck like the first. Two kills in a row from Jake Langlois and an ace from Josue Rivera disrupted the even score and gave the Cougars an 8-5 lead. BYU later strengthened the lead to 15-9 with a block from Langlois and Michael Hatch and another ace, this time from setter Tyler Heap. Underwood’s hitting streak continued in this set as he added another five kills, allowing the Cougars to take off with the largest lead of the match, 24-15. The end of the second set was an exact repeat of the first, and a missed serve from each team finished it 25-16.
Long Beach took charge at the beginning of set three and stole an 8-1 lead with three kills, an ace and a triple block. BYU hung on and closed the lead to six, but Long Beach still led 15-9. A kill from Underwood sparked the set’s momentum reversal. Three more kills from Underwood, a solo block from Phil Fuchs and an ace from Kiril Meretev helped the Cougars take the lead 17-15. BYU’s dominant blocking and hitting pushed the score to 21-19, but the 49ers battled to 22-22. Underwood’s 17th kill earned match point 24-22, and the Cougars finished it with a block from Hatch and Underwood.
“It wasn’t our prettiest effort,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “They make it hard for us. Simultaneously I’m really disappointed in how we started the third and elated that we found the combination of guys that worked liked crazy and stayed in the match.”
Eight of Underwood’s 17 kills came in the third set as BYU had to dig itself out of the seven-point hole.
“He was the key to the match,” McGown said. “If he doesn’t have the kind of match he does, we for sure don’t win.”
The Cougars will face off against the 49ers once again Saturday night in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.