Sander leads Cougars to victory in four-set thriller

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – Taylor Sander finished with a game-high 18 kills to lead the BYU men’s volleyball team to a four-set victory (25-20, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21) over Stanford Friday.

“When we could pass, when we received serve well and got in and got focused, we played really well,” BYU men’s volleyball coach Chris McGown said. “Taylor had a stretch through the second where he wasn’t himself and hung his head and our assistant, Robert, got into him a little bit and told him to flip that switch, and he did.”

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Sander added seven digs and a season-high five blocks, while Carson Heninger finished with 12 kills. Josue Rivera ended with his second double-double of the season, 11 kills and 10 digs, to go along with two service aces.

Devin Young contributed eight kills with a .538 clip and five blocks, with Joseph Grosh adding seven kills on a .545  clip. Tyler Heap finished with 53 assists, while Jaylen Reyes added nine digs.

Heninger recorded the first three kills for BYU (5-2, 5-0 MPSF) to give it a 4-1 start. Rivera and Hatch followed it up with kills of their own to keep their three-point lead. Following a hitting error by Stanford (3-3, 0-3 MPSF), BYU’s triple block extended its lead to five. The Cougars forced Stanford to call a timeout with a 17-11 lead that included another kill by Rivera, followed by a block. The Cardinal pushed the game within three, but Sander’s kill from the back row and Young’s kill ended the set 25-20.

Stanford hit the Cougars early with a 3-0 start, until Sander answered back with three kills to cut the deficit to one. Despite bringing the game within four, the Cardinal answered back to extend its lead back up 17-11. BYU couldn’t hang on as the Cardinal went on to take the set 25-19.

BYU took the third set 25-23 in a thriller after Stanford’s 7-3 start. Rivera’s service ace tied it at 9-9 and began a back-and-forth battle until Stanford went on a 4-0 run to lead 16-13. Three blocks in a row by BYU brought it back within one, followed by three big kills by Sander to take the 21-20 lead. The Cardinal tied it back at 22 apiece until Grosh’s two kills, followed by Sander’s service ace took the set.

The fourth set started back and forth with Rivera putting the first point on a service ace. With the set tied 7-7, a kill by Young, two by Sander and another by Heninger gave BYU a three-point lead to force Stanford to a timeout. Tied at 16, BYU called a timeout to respond back with a 3-0 run that included a big kill from Sander after a long rally for the 19-16 lead. A kill by Heninger and a service ace by Grosh extended the Cougars’ lead to four. Rivera recorded two kills for match point, with Heninger giving BYU the 25-21 victory.

“I think just the fact that we’re playing hard the whole time was a big deal, and the crowd carried us through a bunch of those sets,” McGown said. “The third we were down, you could feel it rising out of the crowd, and I thought that was the other big factor of the match.”

The Cougars stay home to host Pacific on Saturday at 7 p.m. MST and will be televised live on BYUtv.