BYU sends Travelers traveling home after four-set knockout
The roar of the crowd, a rejuvenated setter, and stellar performances by all the Cougar’s offense contributed to the aggressive win for BYU against The University of Southern California Friday night. Though the match could have been taken by BYU in three sets, the fourth allowed for the Cougars to put on a show for the 4,261 in the Fieldhouse, and rack up impressive statistics for the men.
Set one contained exciting offensive plays after a service error from each team. Middle Teon Taylor had the first BYU kill of the night, and Kupono Browne followed him with a kill from the right side, tying the game early on at 4-4.
The set would be tied twelve times in the continuous tug-of-war between the two teams. The first ace of the night was recorded by Browne, putting BYU up 13-12.
An impressive rally between the Cougars and Travelers was finally shut down by Luke Benson, securing a kill on the right side. Both the right side and middle offenses were greatly utilized by BYU the whole night, with a total of 57 kills by the end of the match.
Set one would end with a tip kill from Benson on the outside, putting BYU up 25-20. Despite two missed serves, Browne was the outstanding all-star in blue, bagging five kills, an assist, and two aces in the first set.
Set two began hot and would stay hot with a total of 19 tied scores throughout the set. Miks Ramanis served and forced USC out of rotation, from which Ramanis himself was able to secure a back row attack.
An impressive triple block got the Fieldhouse up on their feet at 7-8, despite the Cougars being down a point. Gavin Julien and Taylor were both assassins in the middle, killing whatever setter Heath Hughes fed them. On the night, Taylor would have 9 kills and Julien behind him with 8, hitting a 1.00 and .615, respectively.
Despite the advantage that quick middle plays were for the Cougars, no significant lead could be pulled, and points trickled back and forth between the teams. Four time outs were called by the time the score was tied at 25-25.
Both teams took turns recording a kill to drive their stats and the set score up. Set two would go to BYU at 30-28 after a triple block from Hughes, Benson, and Julien sent the Travelers traveling back. The tight score between the teams was reflected in the books, with BYU hitting a .394, and USC close behind with their .342.
Set three had notable plays from many of the players on each side of the court. Benson had the ace of the night-whipping the ball 80 miles per hour, leaving the stadium, both teams, and even himself shocked.
The lead once again bounced between the two teams with notable kills from Ramanis, Taylor, and Browne.
Benson secured another kill of his own after an overpass from USC, making the score 15-16 USC.
BYU finally gained some distance up at 23-20 when USC’s head coach issued a challenge for a touch, hoping to ice out the Cougars and give his own players a chance to breathe. Despite the point not being overturned, the challenge was effective, as the Travelers would immediately side out, putting them down 23-21.
The score soon was tied at 24-24 after a kill from USC’s Dillon Klein. BYU would call a time out after USC secured set point, but would not get the side out that was needed, with set three going to the Travelers at 26-24.
Despite the loss of the third set, BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead didn’t see this set as a total loss. “We just made mistake. I look at the bright side as a coach,” Olmstead said. “We got to play more volleyball. We could use the experience. We could use the touches.”
The Cougars came in howling in set four, never giving the Travelers a lead. Taylor’s perfect 1.00 clip was only magnified in this set, with a kill early on at 3-2 BYU.
Trent Moser received some play time and used it wisely, with two kills for a .667 and a solo block, reminding everyone of why he was on the court.
Julien secured a kill, putting BYU up 8-4. After Moser followed with an immediate ace, the Travelers called for a time out at 9-4.
The rest of the set seemed to just be a spotlight on the talent that BYU possesses. Kills from Ramanis-who had 14 on the night-and the rest of the boys in blue delighted the crowd and increased the gap in score between the two teams.
Match point was reached at 24-13 after two consecutive kills from Taylor. The match would end 25-14 after a service error from USC. In the final set, BYU hit a .556, compared to USC’s meager .048.
Browne was a leader and powerhouse throughout the night, but was first to recognize the performance of his teammates. “We triggered more intensity and more urgency…I am super proud of the guys coming off the bench. They really helped us power through,” Browne said. “Heath is doing an absolute amazing job spreading the offense and giving the guys the opportunity to put it away… There are guys that are super offensive on the team.”
Olmstead also commented on the offense that was able to be run tonight. “We were a lot more aggressive attacking-wise,” Olmstead said. “We are taking a lot more swings out of the middle.”
The Cougars have a bye week until they play Stanford in the Fieldhouse on April 14. The two weeks will be spent wisely preparing to take on the no. 17 Cardinals.