Cougars fall in five sets to No. 3 Pepperdine

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

MALIBU, Calif.—Despite a tough comeback in the fourth set, No. 4 BYU men’s volleyball dropped a 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 25-21, 26-28, 15-11) contest to No. 3 Pepperdine on the road Friday.

“I just thought we weren’t at our best tonight, but still managed to make a match out of it,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “We battled really hard and played with a lot of energy, if not execution.”

BYU vs. Pepperdine Box Score

Taylor Sander and Carson Heninger led the charge with 19 and 17 kills, respectively. Sander also had eight digs and a season-best six blocks, while Heninger had a career-best five blocks. Devin Young led at the net with eight blocks, tying his season high.

Tyler Heap recorded 50 assists, his third match with 50 or more assists, and libero Jaylen Reyes had a season-high 13 digs for the Cougars (6-3, 6-1 MPSF).

BYU posted a season-high 15 blocks, posting more kills (57-55) and a better hit clip (.242-.225) than the Waves (5-1, 5-1 MPSF). The loss snapped a six-match win streak for BYU.

Down 2-1 in the overall score, the Cougars turned the tables to start the fourth set, jumping ahead 3-1. The Waves stole the lead 6-5 on an ace and kept an advantage until Young and Heap blocked Wave Josh Taylor to cut the lead to 18-17. On the next play Pepperdine hit the ball long to tie the score 18-18.

BYU retook the lead 20-19 when a Sander attack was touched by the Waves on its way out. Pepperdine tied it up again at 22 and stuffed a BYU block to go ahead by one. The Cougars evened the score with the help of a service error and went ahead on a Sander kill 24-23. After four set-point opportunities for BYU, Heninger shut down the set on a kill 28-26, sending the match to a fifth set.

The Cougars took control 3-1 in the fifth set and maintained the lead until Pepperdine’s Taylor posted a kill, followed by a solo block to take a 9-8 lead for the Waves. Pepperdine wrapped up the match on a kill.

“It’s a hard place to play,” McGown said. “They’re good at home. They can serve well, and they do a lot of nice things. I thought their player [Josh] Taylor was really good for them down the stretch.”

After an exchange of kills to launch the match, BYU let the Waves skip ahead 10-5 on Cougar errors. BYU struggled to cut its deficit smaller than four points, and Pepperdine maintained its lead to take the first set 25-19.

The Cougars picked up their pace in the second set, with a Sander kill and Wave error giving BYU its largest lead yet at 10-7. Sander pushed the lead to 16-12 with a kill that proved too strong for Pepperdine’s back row.

Josue Rivera’s service ace, the Cougars’ first of the match, put BYU up 18-13. Ahead 20-15, BYU fired off three quick points, which included two blocks by Michael Hatch, and the Cougars closed out the set on a Rivera kill.

Tied at one in the overall match score, Pepperdine took the lead 3-1 in the third set. BYU managed to tie the set score at four, but the Waves answered with a 4-0 run to go up 8-4. Rivera’s second ace of the match capped off a 6-2 scoring streak for the Cougars that tied the score at 10.

From there, the Waves stole momentum and forged ahead 20-14. Hatch and Sander closed the gap to 22-20, but Pepperdine kept control and wrapped up the set 25-21.

BYU heads to Los Angeles to face No. 5 USC Saturday at 5 p.m. PST, its second top-five match of the weekend. Links to live video streaming and live stats can be found on the BYU men’s volleyball schedule page.