Cougars dominate Trojans to advance in MPSF tournament

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah—No. 1 seed BYU men’s volleyball swept (25-13, 25-18, 25-17) No. 8 seed USC in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) conference tournament quarterfinals Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse.

“For the guys to come out and play like this, I was really impressed,” head coach Chris McGown said. “I thought everybody did a great job, top to bottom. We passed really well and just really put a lot of pressure on (USC) the whole time. That was the story of the match.”

BYU vs. USC Box Score

MPSF Player of the Year Taylor Sander finished with 13 kills and four aces to lead the Cougars (19-8, 18-6 MPSF). Josue Rivera recorded 10 kills to go along with six blocks, tying his career high. Tim Dobbert contributed 10 kills and posted a career-high hitting percentage at .500, and Michael Hatch pitched in six blocks and six kills.

Making his first career start, Robbie Sutton posted 36 assists, three blocks and two kills, all career highs.

Highlights and Interviews

The Trojans (16-11, 14-10 MPSF) were led by MPSF Freshman of the Year Lucas Yoder’s 10 kills. Andy Benesh chipped in six kills and Micah Christenson recorded 29 assists.

The Cougars started off the first set with five straight points, including two kills by Hatch, to force an early Trojan timeout. Leading 9-5, BYU scored three straight on kills by Devin Young and a block by Sutton to extend the lead to 12-5. BYU advanced to 23-12 after scoring five straight. Sander’s kill finished the set for the Cougars, 25-13. Sander and Rivera paced the Cougars with five and four kills, respectively, in the set.

BYU jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the second frame behind three kills each from Sander and Dobbert. Sander then reeled off three consecutive service aces to push the lead to 12-6. The lead grew to 16-7 with three BYU blocks, but the Trojans pulled to within five at 18-13 after scoring five straight. Kills by Hatch and Sander gave the Cougars a set point opportunity, which Rivera converted with a kill of his own to win the set, 25-18.

After battling to a 9-9 tie, the Cougars started taking control of the third set with consecutive kills from Dobbert, Sander and Rivera to build a 12-9 lead. BYU maintained its three-point lead, with Rivera pacing the offense. Yoder kept the Trojans in the set with three kills during that stretch. Back-to-back points from Sander extended the Cougar lead to 20-15. After consecutive USC points, BYU scored four straight to get its first match point opportunity. Hatch and Dobbert combined for the block to give BYU a 25-17 win. 

The victory is BYU's 24th consecutive win at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars haven't lost at home since February 2013.

With the victory, BYU will host the remainder of the conference tournament. The Cougars advance to the semifinals where they will play either UC Santa Barbara or UCLA on Thursday, April 24 at 8 p.m. MDT at the Smith Fieldhouse. The other semifinal game will be played at 5 p.m. on the same day. The tournament championship is slated for Saturday, April 26 at 7 p.m. MDT.