Ranked road trip round two: Luke Benson and the Cougars can prove they’ve improved

Coming off an exciting 3-2 win over UC Irvine last week, Luke Benson and the BYU men’s volleyball team are looking forward to proving themselves again this weekend.

“I feel like everybody that we have is…really good at just fighting through adversity, staying positive, and not pulling their teammates down,” Benson said. “I feel like we’re a really good team this year and…not a lot of people realize that yet.”

The 6-foot 7-inch sophomore outside hitter from Newbury Park, California first got interest from BYU when he was in eighth grade, and under rather unique circumstances. As Benson remembers it, his former club director knew one of the old assistant coaches at BYU, and they got talking one day in the bathroom. 

“My old club director was like ‘we have this…super tall LDS kid, so you should come give him a look.’ And that kind of started it off,” Benson recalled. He eventually fell in love with the environment at the Smith Field House and was committed to come to BYU by the end of his freshman year of high school.

Benson’s freshman year of college didn’t go exactly as planned, for him or the team. The Cougars finished the season 8-17 overall and Benson only started in 1 match, something he works toward every week. However, it did teach him how important passing is as an outside hitter.

“That’s something I didn’t really realize until…the end of last year,” Benson related. “You just need to get passing reps and passing reps.” That realization has led him to shift his focus to becoming a better passer. “This year I’ve just been super focused on just pass, pass, pass, pass. It’s improved a lot this year, it’s a lot more consistent than it was last year.”

In fact, Benson has spent countless hours in the Smith Fieldhouse practicing his passing with his sisters, one of whom is freshman Addie Benson of the BYU Women’s Volleyball team. “I’ll just do the serving machine with them for like a couple hours at a time. Until like, my arms will be purple. You can never get enough of that practice.” 

That practice has been paying off, as Benson has started 4 of the Cougar’s 6 matches, is averaging 2.7 kills per set, and has played an integral role in helping the team to a 5-1 record. He even recorded a career-high 12 kills in a win over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.

Though the ultimate goal is to win each match, the season is about more than wins and losses for this team. “I think we just want to focus on just…being as good as possible by the end of the season,” Benson said. “We wanna make sure that we’re just a team that works hard…And even though we’re working really hard right now, I think we can work even harder and we’re gonna be even better by the end of the season.”

The Cougars will have an excellent opportunity to prove their improvement this weekend, as they head to Muncie, Indiana to play 8th ranked Ball State. The teams split last year’s series in Provo, the Cougars taking the first match 3-2 and the Cardinals winning the second 3-1. This year, the Cardinals come into the series 4-2 on the year, hitting 0.349, and boasting 2 players with over 50 kills already. 

“They run a super good offense, like really fast, and so you kinda just need to always be on your toes ready to move,” said Benson of Ball State. The Cougs and Cards are fairly evenly matched statistically, but BYU will have to bring their best to come out with a pair of wins. Benson thinks it will be the simple, little things–like communication and going after every ball–that will decide the match for the Cougars. “While we already do a pretty good job at it, I think that there’s a whole other level we can take it to.”

The series begins on Thursday night, with the first match starting at 5 p.m. The second match is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. Both matches will be available to stream on ESPN3.

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