Sander's sharp hitting leads BYU to sweep of USC

(Photo by BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah—Taylor Sander’s career-high .762 hitting put the BYU men’s volleyball team on top 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 26-24) in the Senior Night match against USC Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse. The win clinches the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament for the Cougars.

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“Being senior night, one of the things we talked about was not having any family distractions or anything else," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "But that is what is so great about this team. It doesn’t matter what day it is or who we are playing, they come out and play. Tonight, we played a complete game. The guys did great offensively, they dug well and blocked well. It was pretty fun to watch. We still have a lot of volleyball left to play, and we hope to be back here to host the MPSF tournament.”

Sander led the team with 17 kills and three blocks. Ben Patch contributed 10 kills and a team-high five blocks. Michael Hatch also had five blocks and five kills, and Ryan Boyce helped out with 33 assists. Josue Rivera finished the night with a team-high four aces with five kills on the night.

For the second time in history, BYU (19-3, 18-2 MPSF) won all of its matches in March, going 8-0 during the month. The Cougars, riding an 11-match win streak, also hit a .545 clip, a season high and third-best in BYU rally scoring history. BYU made only seven hitting errors, while the Trojans picked up 19.

Tied 6-6, Hatch stepped up for two quick kills to push the Cougars ahead 8-6 for the last lead change of the first set. Boyce launched an 8-0 scoring streak for BYU on a kill. Back-to-back aces by Rivera gave BYU a 19-11 lead and a third ace by Rivera put the Cougars ahead 10 at 21-11, capping the run. Sander finished off the set with a kill for a 25-14 win.

Sander led with six kills on a .857 clip in the first set. The team hit .750 during the set, the Cougars’ highest hitting percentage in a single set this season.

BYU skipped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before USC could respond. The Cougars took a double-figure lead on a 10-2 scoring run. A block by Hatch, Patch and Sander brought the score to 17-7, and BYU took the set 25-15 on a Trojan error.

USC held strong in the third set, going ahead 3-1 to start the set and not relinquishing hold on the lead until late in the set. A Sander kill cut BYU’s deficit to 22-21 and the set was tied up 22-22 on a USC error. The Trojans couldn’t keep it together, as the Cougars took the lead 23-22 on a blocking error. An attack error by the Trojans put the Cougars at match point, but a kill by USC’s Tanner Jansen kept the Trojans in the game. Tied 24-24, Patch put down another kill and a Trojan attack error finished off the set 26-24.

BYU hits the road for a four-match trip to California to finish out the regular season, starting with a matchup at UC Santa Barbara Friday at 7 p.m. PDT.

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