(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO – Taylor Sander’s match-high 22 kills led the BYU men’s volleyball team to a 3-2 (25-23, 25-14, 20-25, 21-25, 15-7) victory over Long Beach State in the MPSF Quarterfinals at the Smith Fieldhouse, Saturday, advancing them to the Semifinals on Thursday, April 26.
"I thought our guys played with a ton of composure in that fifth set," head coach Chris McGown said. "This is a really good Long Beach State team and they have played us really well this year. I thought we played really well with the exception of the third set, but I am very proud of the poise we showed in getting the win in that final set."
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LBSU twice extended the match and fought off elimination by winning sets three and four after dropping the opening two games. BYU rallied in the final set and improved its record in 8-2 in 2012 in matches that go five games.
Sander hit .447 for the match and recorded seven more kills than any other player. This marks Sander’s third consecutive match with at least 20 kills. Senior Futi Tavana contributed 15 total blocks and tied his career-high 13 block assists.
"We just didn't show up for that third set and they got us," Sander said. "They played really well and I am just happy we came out in the fifth and played our game. We really played together and I am so happy we came out with a win so I get another chance to play a match with this team."
Senior Robb Stowell added 14 kills and was the only other Cougar with double-digit kills. Joe Kauliakamoa also contributed 52 assists, another match best.
Neither team led by more than two in a back-and-forth opening set that featured 12 ties and seven lead changes. Josue Rivera led BYU with four kills while Sander recorded three. The Cougars also finished with a .429 hitting percentage while holding the 49ers to a .179 mark.
Sander opened the second set with an ace and recorded a set-high seven kills. The Cougars hit .571 for the set, compared with .143 for LBSU. BYU ended game two on a 13-2 run after the 49ers tied the score at 12 to secure the 11-point win.
The 49ers staved off the sweep with a third set victory. BYU hit a match-low .111 for the set and trailed throughout. Sander finished with six kills to lead the set and Stowell added four.
After falling behind 7-6 early in set four, the Cougars were unable to regain a lead despite tying the score four different times. Stowell led the Cougars with four kills in the set loss that sent the match to a fifth game.
The Cougars jumped out to an 8-1 advantage in the final set and refused to relinquish the lead. Sander recorded three kills and an ace to lead BYU in a dominating fifth game in which the Cougars hit .727 while holding LBSU to a .062 percentage.
With the win, BYU secures a spot in the MPSF semifinals to be played on Thursday, April 26, against 2-seed Stanford.