(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – The No. 5 BYU Cougars were able to sweep (25-21, 25-20, 26-24) the No. 11 Pacific Tigers for the second night in a row in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday.
"I thought we did something in the third set that I haven’t seen us do all season long and that is to stay composed in a set when we were getting kind of beat up," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "With that composure we were able to slowly turn it around and get the win. We’ve been talking all season about just playing one point at a time and I saw that tonight. We have to keep playing disciplined volleyball."
Taylor Sander posted a hitting percentage of .560, leading the Cougars in kills with 15. Sander was followed closely by Robb Stowell and Josue Rivera who recorded 11 and nine kills, respectively. Stowell also led the team in digs with nine.
Stowell completed his all-around strong performance with five blocks, including one solo block. Russ Lavaja also added five blocks. Setter Joe Kauliakamoa handed out 39 assists in the match.
"This is a team with a ton of heart," McGown said. "I think it really speaks to their mental maturity. They are starting to trust each other and trust our system, and that's getting us wins."
The Cougars got off to a strong start in the first set. Although Pacific stayed within five points of BYU throughout the set, the Cougars were able to gradually distance themselves with strong hitting by the their frontline. They were led by sophomore standout Sander who posted seven kills in the set.
The second set began with the two teams exchanging points back-and-forth until with the score tied at seven-all, BYU was finally able to record back-to-back points off kills by Sander and Kauliakamoa to take a 9-7 lead. The Tigers were unable to tie the score again in the set. There was only one block in the entire second set but it came when it mattered most as Lavaja and Josue Rivera combined to block a Pacific kill to give BYU the 25-20 set victory.
The Cougars found themselves trailing the Tigers by six after a 5-0 Pacific run in the third set but little-by-little BYU was able to chip away at the Tiger’s lead, eventually tying the score at 20-all. The Cougars would take a 22-21 lead off impressive play on the net by Stowell and Russ Lavaja but it was a kill by Lavaja that sealed the deal for BYU, 26-24.
Next up the Cougars will travel to Hawaii to play against the University of Hawaii on Mar. 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. HST.