(Photo by Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – The No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team proved to be as good as advertised on Friday night as it defeated the No. 5 University of Southern California Trojans, 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-17, 25-20). The game was played in front of a sold-out Smith Fieldhouse crowd of 5,124 spectators which is 24th all-time for total attendance in BYU history.
“This is the greatest environment to play in and we had a really fun time tonight,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “We showed some heart when we were down in the fourth and did some nice things to come back.”
Taylor Sander led the Cougars with 23 kills and five block assists. Robb Stowell and Josue Rivera contributed 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Joe Kauliakamoa finished with 49 assists and seven digs. Quentin Smith also contributed a career-high eight blocks.
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The first set was very back-and-forth initially as the two teams exchanged points until a 4-0 run by the Cougars, with Kauliakamoa serving, gave BYU an 18-15 lead. The Trojans would not lead again in the set. Sander led all Cougars with six kills while Stowell and Rivera both contributed four each.
USC evened the match, 1-1, in the second set. With the set tied 15-15, the Trojans went on a 4-0 run of their own and would go onto to extend their lead to six with the score at 22-16. The Trojans never looked back defeating BYU 25-19. Stowell and Rivera both recorded another four kills each in the set.
Sophomore Sander took over in the third set single-handedly by recording seven kills, a service ace and five assisted blocks. BYU went on to win the set 25-17.
In the fourth and final set of the evening, the Cougars trailed by as many as four early but when BYU found itself down 16-12, they proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to take the 19-16 lead over USC, powered by the play of Sander once again. The Cougars closed the match with two strong back-to-back plays by redshirt freshman, Rivera who recorded a kill and a service ace to give BYU the 25-20 victory.
The Cougars will face the Trojans once again tomorrow, Saturday, at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
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