(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball recorded the third-highest team hitting percentage in the rally scoring era in a sweep of USC (25-15, 25-13, 25-15), securing a share of the regular season championship in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Friday night at Elaine Michaelis Court.
The Cougars (22-3, 18-3 MPSF) notched a season-high .556 hitting clip as a team, surpassing a previous high against then-No. 12 CSUN on Feb. 26.
“I felt the energy was just good from the start from our side,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Our guys made a lot of plays and it was exciting to be a part of. They stayed at it. Not too many lulls there, so I liked what they did tonight. They served aggressively, missed a few, but we got a good amount of aces and put the pressure on them (USC) to play.”
Opposite Ben Patch led BYU with 12 kills on .688 hitting, one ace and five digs, and outside hitter Brenden Sander had nine kills while tying a career-high .667 clip. Libero Erik Sikes had six digs and outside hitter Jake Langlois led the team with four aces, tying a career high. Setter Leo Durkin had 23 assists to lead the team in shortened playing time.
The Cougars hit .636 in the first set and .700 in the second before multiple substitutions were made in the third with the lead securely in hand against the Trojans (7-18, 5-16 MPSF).
BYU jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first on a kill by Price Jarman and an ace by Patch to start the match. USC kept things close early on as the Cougars led by no more than two points until BYU took a 12-7 advantage on a 4-0 run. A Trojan attack error, a Jarman kill and a Langlois ace fired up the Cougars and forced USC to call its first timeout.
BYU followed the break with a 4-0 run that included two more Langlois service aces. Leading 17-8, the Cougars took a 9-point lead with an emphatic kill by Langlois on the set from Durkin to force the second timeout by USC.
After the timeout, BYU maintained its lead over the Trojans by equaling its largest margin after USC committed a service error to end the set 25-15.
In the second set USC took a 1-0 lead for its first of the match, but it was short-lived when Patch notched back-to-back kills to put BYU up 2-1.
Sander’s back-to-back kills, including one coming down the pipe, put BYU up 8-3 before the Trojans were forced to call a timeout to regroup.
USC closed the gap with a 3-1 run of its own, but Jarman’s kill off the block brought the score to 10-6 in favor of the home team.
The Cougars held the advantage, going up 15-9 on a roll-shot kill by Patch, who then followed two points later with a kill down the line. A Sander kill down the middle increased BYU’s lead to seven, forcing USC’s coach to call another timeout with the tally at 19-12.
BYU continued its dominance with its efficient hitting, eventually taking a 2-0 lead in the match. The 25-13 set win came on a block by Langlois, Jarman and Tim Dobbert.
Patch and Sander led out in the third with kills to help the Cougars to a 3-0 start, but USC responded with a 4-0 run for its second lead of the night.
BYU countered with a 6-0 run of its own before another Trojan timeout. A Hatch and Sander block, aided by two kills from Durkin, fueled the run.
The Cougars followed the break, building a 15-1 run as USC was forced to take another timeout to attempt to stall the BYU attack.
After the timeout, the Cougar reserves saw most of the playing time as BYU secured the victory with a sweep.
The Cougars will face USC again on Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT at the Smith Fieldhouse, where they will be looking to clinch the conference title outright with a win. The match will be broadcast live on BYUtv.