Cougars earn first road victory at USC

(Photo by Marcos Escalona/ BYU Photo)

LOS ANGELES -- Bouncing back after a loss to capture its first road win of the season, the No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team defeated No. 10 USC 3-1 (25-18, 17-25, 25-22, 25-18) Saturday at the Galen Center.

"Before the match we talked about how it would be easy to come out and play emotionally flat after the tough loss on the road," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "It's our first road trip and traveling wears you down and you're in a different environment. The guys found a different level though tonight. This was more about being scrappy and playing hard every single point than it was anything else. I was impressed with them."

Junior Taylor Sander led BYU (8-3, 7-2 MPSF) with 23 kills and 10 digs, while adding two aces and a .543 clip. Senior Russ Lavaja recorded a team-high .588 hitting percentage and added 11 kills and three blocks.

"Taylor had a wonderful match and Michael Hatch stepped up and started and played really well for us," McGown said.

Tanner Jansen recorded a team-high 18 kills for USC (3-5, 3-5 MPSF).

The Cougars jumped out early in the first set taking a 4-1 lead with kills from Hatch and Sander. Ben Patch extended the lead with back-to-back service aces to push BYU in front by five. The Cougars picked up a 13-7 lead after adding another ace from Sander. BYU kept the pace and moved ahead 20-13 and USC was unable to overcome the lead. Lavaja finished off set one with a kill to give the Cougars a 25-18 win.

Sander and Patch combined for 10 kills on 15 attempts to lead BYU in the first set. Sander carried his team with a .750 hitting percentage.

USC switched the momentum in its favor in set two, taking a 10-3 command. Despite a 4-1 run by BYU, the Trojans continued to plow ahead and took a 22-14 lead. Two Cougar errors sealed the set for USC, 25-17. After 16 kills in the first, BYU finished the second set with eight kills and six errors while hitting only .083.

The third set started with a back-and-forth competition until the Cougars pulled ahead by four. A pair of kills by Josue Rivera secured a 12-7 BYU lead. The Cougars maintained the distance to move ahead by five, but service aces put the Trojans back in the set and within one, 19-18. Sander ended the 5-0 USC run with a kill, but the Trojans answered with their own. Patch dished out a kill to give BYU the set point and the Cougars finished it off on the next point, 25-22.

The team exchanged points to begin set four until BYU’s defense hustled for three-straight points to go up 7-5. Lavaja interrupted a 3-0 Trojan run with a big block in the middle and the Cougars worked their way to a 15-10 advantage. A pair of USC errors pushed BYU ahead 21-14 and the Cougars didn’t look back. BYU took the set, 25-18, and match.

The Cougars return to the Smith Fieldhouse for matches against Pacific and Stanford, Feb. 22 and 23, respectively.

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