(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU)
PROVO, Utah -- Taylor Sander broke the all-time career service ace record, leading No. 1 BYU to a 3-1 (20-25, 27-25, 26-24, 25-23) victory over No. 12 Cal Baptist Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Sander finished with four aces to bring his career total to 114 and a team-high 17 kills. Josue Rivera added nine kills of his own to improve the Cougars record to 15-3 on the year and 14-2 in the MPSF.
“After last night, our guys weren’t overconfident, they were just a little flat,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “We have been telling them all week leading up to this that Cal Baptist is good, and they were going to show up. Despite the box scores, we were able to find a way to win. Our passing played a big part of that tonight.”
Both teams traded points back and forth early on in the first set. Sander had back-to-back kills at the start to give the Cougars an early 3-1 lead but Cal Baptist answered taking a 6-4 lead after a pair of blocks. Down 8-5, the Cougars battled back to tie the score at 11 after Cal Baptist miscued and a strong kill by Sander. Later in the set, Cal Baptist extended its lead to four after a Levi Cabral service ace to go up 18-14. Tyler Heap had a kill to close the gap to 22-19 but the Lancers proved too much to handle. Cabral finished the first set for the Lancers with a kill to take set one 25-20.
In the second set, BYU took an early 4-1 lead with a block by Ben Patch. The Lancers battled back to narrow the deficit to one, down 6-5 after another Cabral kill. BYU scored four straight points fueled by a kill from Sander and a strong block from Ryan Boyce to extend its lead to 9-5. Russ Lavaja later finished an assist from Boyce to extend the Cougars lead to 14-11 midway through the second set. The Lancers continued to chip away at the Cougars lead to narrow the gap to one, 16-15, with a kill by Guilherme Koepp. Michael Hatch served his second ace of the match to extend the Cougars lead to 20-16.
Cal Baptist continued to battle back regaining the lead 24-23 after an ace by Cabral. Facing elimination twice, Sander came up with huge kills both times to keep the Cougars alive in the second set. BYU went on to take the second set 27-25 after Sander sealed it with an ace.
The Cougars and Lancers continued to trade points in the third set. BYU began to pull away midway through the set with a block by Hatch, followed by a Sander ace to extend the Cougars lead to 11-7. BYU went up 16-13 with a kill from Lavaja before the Lancers went on a 3-0 run capped by a Koepp block to tie the score at 16. Sander extended the Cougars lead to three with another ace from the service line to put BYU up 21-18. With the match tied at 24, Lavaja came up with a huge kill to give the Cougars the one point lead. BYU won the set 26-24 on the next play after a Cal Baptist hitting error.
Down 4-1 early in the fourth set, BYU battled back to tie the game at four with a Cal Baptist hitting error. The Lancers controlled the early parts of the set taking a 9-6 lead after a service ace by Koepp. Down 14-12, BYU capitalized on Cal Baptist errors and kills by Sander to go on a 5-1 run and take a 17-15 lead. Hatch pushed the Cougars lead to four with a big block, giving the Cougars the 22-18 advantage. The Lancers narrowed the BYU lead to 23-22 after a Cabral ace before a strong kill by Sander gave the Cougars a two-point margin. Lavaja put the final set and match away for the Cougars 25-23 with a kill.
BYU returns to action at Cal State Northridge on March 22 with a 7 p.m. MDT start time.