Junior Robb Stowell had 29 kills in BYU's victories over Cal Baptist and Long Beach State. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SANTA BARBARA -- The No. 5 BYU men's volleyball team won both their matches on day one of the Gaucho Invitational by defeating Cal Baptist, 3-1 (16-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-22) and Long Beach State, 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-22).
The Cougars will next play in the tournament championship against the homestanding UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Saturday, Jan. 8, at 6:30 p.m. PT.
In the first match against Cal Baptist, true freshman Taylor Sander and junior Robb Stowell led the Cougars with 18 and 11 kills, respectively. Stowell also added 12 digs to the winning effort.
“Cal Baptist is an outstanding volleyball team and this was a highly competitive first match for us," said BYU interim head coach Rob Neilson. "It took some time for us to get comfortable receiving serve at sea level especially with how well the Lancers serve as a team."
BYU dropped set one to the Lancers but came back and controlled the second, third and fourth sets while recording 10 aces and just five service errors.
"It was our serving that kept us in the match until we were able to even out and get into a passing rhythm," Neilson said. "Considering his limited practice experience, Trevor Neff had a phenomenal performance and was our MVP in the first match.”
Neff recorded 40 assists in his first career match as a BYU Cougar.
In match two the Cougars swept Long Beach State led by Stowell who paced BYU with 18 kills, followed by Sander with eight of his own.
"We passed at a high level against the 49ers which allowed Joe (Kauliakamoa) to to run our offense at at high level, and we served effectively allowing us to put a lot of pressure on LBSU's offense with our block," Neilson said. "We are excited for the opportunity to play UCSB in the finals tomorrow at 6:30."
Follow the championship match live on Gametracker through the UCSB schedule page by clicking HERE.