PROVO -- The sixth-ranked BYU men's volleyball team survived a scare from 12th-ranked Ball State on Wednesday, overcoming an eight-point deficit in game four to defeat the Cardinals, 15-9, 15-11, 8-15, 15-13. The win marks the Cougars' 15th of the season on just six losses, while the Cardinals drop to 10-6. Wednesday's victory also marks BYU's 39th straight win in the Smith Fieldhouse.
"I don't know if we're still not recovered from that tough road trip," McGown said. " I'm not sure if we think we're good and don't have to play hard, or if we're just not very good. Whatever the reason, it's disappointing for me to see the lack of effort from our players.
The Cougars were led by Jaime Mayol who chalked up a team-leading 23 kills, while Joaquin Acosta and Mike Wall added 22 kills each. Setter Chris Pitzak tallied 86 assists and picked up a match-high 16 digs. Mac Wilson led the BYU front row with seven blocks, including five block assists.
The Cardinals played well behind the offensive firepower of Brian Hughes who recorded a match-high 32 kills. Tom Tegethoff added 27 kills for the Cardinals. The BSU defense outblocked the Cougars, 15.5-12.0, led by Matt Denmarks' eight blocks.
"Clearly, Ball State deserves credit for playing so well," McGown said. "But until we're able to change our effort, we've got a lot of work to do before our next match."
In game one, the two teams battled to a 5-5 tie before the Cougars started to pull ahead. Fueled by back-to-back Pitzak aces, the Cougars took a 9-5 lead and held off the Cardinals, 15-9. In game two, Ball State tied the match at 11-11 on back-to-back blocks, but Mayol's cross-court kill sparked a 4-1 run that lead to Wilson's game-winning block. After BYU took a 2-0 lead in game three, the Cardinal offense pulled away to an 8-6 lead. Propelled by Tegethoff's play in game three, the Cardinals went on a 7-2 run to close out the game. With the momentum clearly in BSU's court to start game four, the Cardinals jumped out to a 9-1 lead. The Cougars climbed back in the match on four key Cardinal hitting errors and a streak of offensive pressure that led to five straight BYU points. Tied at 12-12, the Cougars went ahead on a BSU passing error and reached match-point on a Mayol/Wilson block. Wilson completed the comeback with his seventh block of the match.
"We finally got a little excitement back into our game," McGown said. "Jaime (Mayol) did a nice job of turning things around in game four. When we started to make a run, we got some excitement back and were able to win the match."
The Cougars will take the rest of the week off before preparing for an exhibition match on Friday, March 17 against Cal. Saturday, March 18th, BYU will play host to another non-conference opponent, Rutgers. Both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. (MST) in the Smith Fieldhouse.
PROVO -- After dropping three of its last four matches on a gruelling, four-day California road trip last week, the BYU men's volleyball team returns to the friendly confines of the Smith Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 8, taking on 11th-ranked Ball State (10-5). Match time is slated for 3 p.m. (MST).
"We're looking at Wednesday's match as the first day of the rest of our season," BYU head coach Carl McGown said. "Ball State is a very tall team and will present a tough challenge at the net. We're going to have to play well and hopefully, we will be able to use this match as a springboard for the remainder of the season."
Wednesday's contest will kickoff a seven-match homestand that will span a period of six weeks before the Cougars head to the MPSF Tournament on April 22 at a site yet to be determined. BYU will also look to extend its 38-match Smith Fieldhouse win streak against the Cardinals.
"Last week's trip was very demanding on our team," McGown said. "We were close to taking both matches against UCLA to a fifth game on their home court, but we just couldn't get it done. After battling a couple injuries and some illness throughout the week, we just ran out of gas on Saturday (at UC Irvine). We just need to look at the positives from last week, rather than the bad and take advantage of being at home for the next six weeks before we head in to our conference tournament."
Wednesday's match will be a non-conference contest against the Cardinals, marking the first time the two teams have met since April 8, 1997. The Cougars have won four of the last five meetings against Ball State, however the Cardinals have also won four matches since the two teams first met in 1990. BYU owns a 3-1 record over the Cardinals in the Smith Fieldhouse, including a 3-1 win in 1997.
The Cougars will look to sophomore Mike Wall for his offensive firepower against Ball State. Wall, a 6-4 outside hitter has tallied 105 kills over the last four matches, including a career-high 42 kills against UCLA and 33 kills against UC Irvine. Wall is averaging a team-leading 5.08 kills per game, including a stellar 6.18 kills-per-game average over the last four matches. The middle-blocking duo of Matt Olsen and Scott Bunker will have their work cut out for them against a BSU front line that averages 6-8. Olsen and Bunker have combined for 42 percent of the Cougars' total blocks on the season, while Mac Wilson, who missed the first 11 matches with a broken finger, has come on to record 51 blocks over the last 26 games, averaging nearly two blocks per game. Bunker leads the team with a 2.40 blocks-per-game average.
Senior setter Chris Pitzak picked up career assist No. 3,265 and became the Cougars' second-leading all-time assist leader on Saturday, passing current All-American Hector Lebron on the career list. Pitzak has recorded 1,404 assists on the season, averaging 19.23 per game.
The Cardinals are led by middle blockers Mark Lau and Matt Denmark. Both Denmark and Lau stand 6-8 and average over five kills and four blocks per game. Brian Hughes leads the Cardinals with 292 kills on the season, averaging 4.79 per game. Ball State is 10-5 on the season and enters Wednesday's match riding a two-match win streak. The Cardinals are 3-2 on the road this season and have posted a 1-0 record on the road against non-conference opponents.