(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – Coming off an emotional victory over No. 1 UC Irvine on Friday night, the No. 3 BYU men’s volleyball team continued its winning ways, defeating No. 13 UC San Diego 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-23) on Saturday night as Taylor Sander became BYU's service ace leader in the modern rally era.
"I was impressed with the way we came out," head coach Chris McGown said. "I thought the potential for some flat emotion was there and we didn't in any way give in to that. I thought the guys came out emotionally charged. Every point was big for them.”
Sander led the Cougars with 11 kills while adding 3 digs and 5 blocks, and Russ Lavaja contributed 6 kills and 8 blocks. Ryan Boyce finished the match with 25 assists and 5 digs.
With the victory, BYU improves to 5-1 on the season and 4-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UC San Diego falls to 3-4 and 2-2 in the MPSF.
"Every win in the conference this year is going to be huge and for us to have four right now is great after having played four of them," McGown said.
Sander led the Cougars early in the first set, assisting in a block for BYU’s first point and later converting a kill to put the Cougars up 5-1. BYU and UC San Diego traded points back and forth as the Tritons failed to find their groove behind the service line, hitting three straight service errors to extend BYU’s lead to 8-5. A Carl Eberts kill brought UC San Diego within four of BYU down 13-9, before BYU began to pull away. Josue Rivera put BYU up 17-11 with a big kill and later extended the Cougars lead to 23-14 with a solid kill down the center gap. The Cougars closed out the set 25-15 with an assist from Boyce and kill by Devin Young.
BYU continued its strong play in the second set, going up 8-2 after a block by Young and Sander. A strong kill by Mike Brunsting brought the Tritons within four, down 9-5 before the Cougars extended their lead to 12-6 after a Ben Patch kill. Down the stretch, Sander stole the show converting three straight points for the Cougars. Sander finished off an assist from Ryan Boyce with a solid kill to put the Cougars up 17-11. On the next play, Sander found a gap from the service line, breaking the BYU ace record to become No. 1 in the rally era, before finishing off another ace to put BYU up 19-11. UC San Diego battled to within six, down 22-16, after a kill from Vaun Lennon, but couldn’t complete a comeback. Sander scored the Cougars final two points, finishing off the second set 25-19 with a kill assisted by Boyce.
Lavaja and Boyce gave BYU its first point of the the third set with a strong block before UC San Diego pulled away with a kill and two straight blocks to go up 3-1. Down 6-4, BYU went on a 5-0 run aided by two Young blocks. In the middle of the set, a Patch kill extended the Cougars lead to 13-8, before the Tritons went on a 7-2 run capped by an error by Lavaja to tie the match at 15. BYU battled back with a 5-0 run of its own, fueled by two kills from Sander to put the Cougars up 20-15. The Tritons were able to pull within one, down 24-23, before BYU put the set and match away, 25-23, with a kill by Lavaja.
The Cougars return to action on Friday Feb. 1 against Long Beach State. The match begins at 7 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse and will be broadcast live on BYUtv.