Kupono Browne (3) celebrates BYU's win over Ball State on Friday. (BYU Photo)

Browne sparks BYU men’s volleyball’s 5-set comeback win over Ball State

No. 9 BYU men’s volleyball extended its win streak to five matches with a nail-biting five-set match against No. 10 Ball State Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse.

The return of Davide Gardini to the Cougars’ lineup gave BYU an early spark. BYU jumped out to a 22-13 lead in set one behind two aces from Gardini.

Ball State quickly extinguished the Cougars fire, using a 10-1 run to tie the set 23-23. 

Fending off five set points, Ball State was able to capitalize on a Gardini service error to win the marathon opening set 32-30.

Ball State carried the momentum to a 25-20 win in set 2.

After coming out of the locker late for set three, BYU got a delay of game that may have been the difference-maker. 

Assistant coach Devin Young grabbed head coach Shawn Olmstead and told him to insert Stanford transfer Kupono Browne into the lineup. 

Kupono Browne celebrates with his teammates during BYU’s win over Ball State on Friday. (BYU Photo)

“Kupono’s got a cannon of an arm. He’s got a tendency to rip the ball and get after it. Really high energy,” Olmstead said.

Energy is what Brown delivered. 

BYU used a 4-0 run to break an 8-8 tie early in set three and never looked back. The Cougars won the final three points of the set to win 25-20.

Set four saw a lot of back-and-forth rallies. After BYU jumped out to an 8-5 lead, Ball State answered the bell with an 8-1 run. 

BYU hung around to even set four at 20-20 when Olmstead called on serve specialist Jon Stanley. Stanley delivered back-to-back aces, bringing the Smith Fieldhouse crowd to its feet.

The Cougars held on to win set four 25-22 thanks to a kill from Gardini.

Davide Gardini applauds the crowd at the Smith Fieldhouse Friday. (BYU Photo)

Even with an off-night in Gardini’s terms, Olmstead knows how important it was to have his star senior out there.

“The reality is, when you’ve got him on your side, there’s a level of confidence and comfort that he brings,” Olmstead said. 

Neither team could create any separation in the fifth-and-final set until BYU rattled off three straight to take a 10-7 lead, capped off by a Kupono kill. 

After stretching the lead to 14-10, BYU’s Miks Ramanis got his team-high 19th kill to send the Smith Fieldhouse into a frenzy. 

“The Smith Fieldhouse, there’s literally no place like it,” Browne said. 

Browne finished with 11 kills in his three sets of play. Gardini added 13 kills of his own. 

BYU will have a quick turnaround, facing the same Ball State squad tomorrow night.

“It’s important to let them enjoy it and celebrate it,” Olmstead said before thinking about the quick turnaround. “I may just sleep in my car.”

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