Lavaja and the Cougars defeated the St. Francis Red Flash in four sets Saturday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
LONG BEACH -- After losing the first set, BYU battled back to defeat St. Francis (PA) in four (33-35, 30-27, 30-14, 30-23) sets at Walter Pyramid on Saturday. The victory improved the Cougars record to 12-7 this season.
BYU was led by the hitting of seniors Andrew Stewart and Kent Tuttle, who had 15 and 12 kills, respectively, followed by Russell Lavaja and Mat Taylor with 11 kills each. Cougar setter Yamil Perez assisted on 51 points during the match.
St. Francis came out strong in the first set, beginning the match with a 6-1 advantage over BYU. Strong hitting by Taylor, Tuttle and Lavaja helped BYU overcome the deficit. The Cougars were able to force multiple set points but the Red Flash were able to outlast BYU winning the first set, 35-33.
It appeared the second set would be a repeat of the first as the Cougars found themselves down 3-0 but three consecutive kills by Andrew Stewart gave BYU a 4-3 lead. Though the two teams exchanged points throughout much of the set the Cougars were able to pull away thanks to kills by Taylor and Stewart as well as a block by Stewart and Lavaja.
In the third set it was BYU who got off to an early start with a 4-1 advantage due in large part to strong hitting by Lavaja and Stewart once again. The Red Flash were unable to knot the score with the Cougars ahead 7-6. From there BYU took over, defeating St. Francis 30-14.
Set four included eleven ties and included significant runs by each team. The set began with the two teams trading points until, with the score tied at 11-11, the Red Flash went on a 7-1 run to take a 18-12 lead. BYU was able to tie the score at 20-20 and ultimately went on a 9-1 run to beat St. Francis, 30-23.
The Cougars will return to Provo and will face USC March 19 and 20 in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. MT both nights.