Taylor Sander recorded 17 kills against the Hawaii Warriors in BYU's five-set victory. (Photo by Ryan Faulkner)
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PROVO, Utah -- Second-ranked BYU men’s volleyball defeated the University of Hawaii (25-20, 26-28, 23-25, 25-22, 15-13) on Friday night in the Smith Fieldhouse after five tough sets. The Cougars battled back, finding themselves down 1-2 after three sets to win in five.
“I love this group,” BYU interim head coach Rob Neilson said. “There’s no group I would rather be with in this situation. We didn’t feel like we played sharp but they rallied together and showed what a good team is all about so I’m really proud of them for this win.”
Four Cougars had double-digit kills on the night as Rob Stowell led BYU, tying his career-high in kills with 26 while also adding 10 digs for his third double-double of the season. Taylor Sander added 17 kills while Futi Tavana and Alex DaPron had 13 and 10, respectively. Tavana’s 13 kills tied his season-high. Joe Kauliakomoa posted a career-high in assists with 66.
With the score knotted at three-all in the early going, a Tavana kill got the Cougars going to begin a 4-0 run. Stowell gave the Cougars their largest lead in the set to that point with a solo block to extend the BYU lead to 10-5 and force a Warrior timeout. The timeout proved effective as the Warriors cut the Cougar lead to two and forced Neilson to call a timeout of his own. The Cougars were able to pull away gradually and a kill by DaPron gave BYU the 25-20 set victory.
It was deja vu for the Cougars in the second set as the two teams exchanged points early on but once again BYU was able to slowly pull ahead off balanced hitting from the front line. However, this time Hawaii came crawling back to tie the game at 17-all. Two straight BYU service errors allowed the Warriors to tie the score again at 18, 19 and 20-all before Hawaii took the lead, 21-20. The game would be knotted six more times but with the Cougars trailing 27-26 a BYU point was questioned and the referees called for a point replay. On the replay the Warriors were able to come away with the set victory, 28-26.
Set three started off much more promising for BYU as the Cougars opened the game on a 4-1 lead with Stowell leading the way by posting two kills and an ace. Still, Hawaii battled back to tie the game at 6-6. Once again, the two teams went back and forth with neither team leading by more than two for the remainder of the set. With the score 17-15, the Cougars trailed by two but two kills by Sander and a kill by DaPron tied the game at 18-all before BYU took the lead 20-18 lead off a Warrior attack error followed by a Cougar block. Hawaii would once again come back to take the set, 25-23.
BYU struggled to find their rhythm in set four as they fell behind early and played catch-up for most of the set. Trailing 18-15, the Cougars went on a 4-0 run to take the lead for just the second time in the match. The hard-hitting of Sander and Tavana brought the BYU faithful to their feet and gave the Cougars a 21-20 lead. The momentum shift carried BYU to the 25-22 set victory, as Stowell tallied another kill on game point.
Thing continued to go the Cougar’s way as BYU took an early 3-1 lead off two Stowell kills, giving the junior his 24th kill and a new season-high. The Warriors would not go down without a fight, taking their first lead of the set 9-8. With Cougars behind 10-9, BYU scored two straight points to reclaim the lead off yet another Stowell kill and a Kevin Sagers ace. The Cougars found themselves behind once again 13-12 but a Tavana kill followed by a block by the trio of DaPron, Tavana and Kaullakamoa gave BYU a 14-13 lead. Tavana would kill one more to seal the deal for the Cougars and give BYU the five-set victory.