PROVO, Utah – Taylor Sander led No. 3 BYU men's volleyball to a 3-1 (25-20, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22) victory over the No. 1 team in the nation, UC Irvine, Friday in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,038 fans at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“I was glad to see us do it in four,” head coach Chris McGown said. “At the start of the fourth set, I was curious to see how our team would come out and how we would react. It was nice to see us shake off that third set, play a little better, and get it done.”
Sander finished with 16 kills, eight digs and three blocks. Russ Lavaja ended with 12 kills and four blocks, and Josue Rivera contributed 12 kills, two digs and one block. Ryan Boyce finished with 47 assists and seven digs.
BYU improves its record to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UC Irvine falls to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the MPSF. This marks the Anteater’s third consecutive loss to MPSF teams.
BYU and UC Irvine exchanged points to kick off the first set. BYU pulled away 10-7 due to back-to-back Irvine hitting errors, but allowed Irvine to bounce back tying the game at 11. The teams continued to exchange leads until late in the set when BYU pulled away by two due to the strong presence of Devin Young in the middle. Young had two kills and one block for the Cougars to regain the lead. The Cougars extended their lead to four, which Patch followed with an ace to close out the set 25-20.
Similarly to set one, a dig by Boyce from the right sideline set up another kill by Patch giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead at the beginning of set two. Irvine took over with its first lead 7-6 following a joust at the net between Boyce and Irvine’s Colin Mehring. Several hitting errors plagued the Cougars in the middle of the set giving the Anteaters a 12-8 lead. Young broke Irvine’s streak with a power hit in the middle putting the Cougars within three. Irvine maintained a four-point lead until a kill from Patch and an Irvine hitting error pulled the Cougars within two. Following two digs and a kill from Sander, BYU regained the lead 20-19 for the first time since BYU led 6-5. Tied at 23, another kill from Lavaja gave the Cougars set point, and a hitting error from Irvine’s Jeremy Dejno gave the Cougars the set.
The Cougars fell behind 5-3 in the third set, but Boyce fed Lavaja three times in a row to pull within one. Another kill from Sander tied the game at 5, and a block from Lavaja in the middle gave the Cougars the lead 6-5. Midway through set three, Irvine pulled away again going up 13-10 following several Cougar errors. A BYU kill and an Irvine hitting error brought the Cougars within one, but more errors allowed the Anteaters to extend their lead 20-14. A hitting error by BYU gave Irvine its first chance to serve on set point, but a kill from Patch kept BYU in the set. Irvine’s Connor Hughes hit high off hands to take set three, 25-19.
With Irvine up 8-6 in the fourth set, a diving back set by Boyce to Patch put the Cougars within one. BYU tied the game again due to a kill from Rivera and took back the lead at 11-10 following a Sander kill to the deep corner. Tied at 18, another kill from Sander put the Cougars back in the lead by one and an Irvine overpass set Lavaja up in the middle. On the next play, a dig from Rivera set up another kill from Lavaja giving the Cougars a 21-18 advantage. On the Cougars first match point, Sander served the ball long, but on their second attempt Boyce set Young in the middle for the win, 25-22.
“I love the level of belief we have that we can play with anyone,” McGown said. “We can play wonderful volleyball at times. If we can keep getting better and play for longer stretches, I think we are going to have a nice result.”
BYU is back in action tomorrow night against No. 13 UC San Diego. The match will begin at 7 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse.
PROVO, Utah – Continuing its stay at home, No. 3 BYU men’s volleyball hosts No. 1 UC Irvine in a conference showdown on Friday before taking on No. 13 UC San Diego on Saturday.
Both matches kick off at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse. Friday’s match will be broadcast on BYUtv.
The Cougars (3-1, 2-0 MPSF) suffered their first loss of the season to then-No. 13 Lewis, splitting a two-match series with the Flyers. After dropping the first match 3-2, BYU bounced back to a quick 3-0 victory the next night.
In Friday’s loss to Lewis, All-American junior Taylor Sander dished out four aces to propel him to a first place tie in BYU career service aces with 91. Sander needs one more to hold the record outright. Sander also moved past 1,000 career points. The outside hitter has recorded double-figures in kills in all four matches this season.
Freshman Ben Patch led the Cougars in Saturday’s win, hitting a .800 clip, the fifth-best mark for a single match in BYU history. The Provo native had 12 kills on 15 attempts and no errors. As a team, BYU recorded the fifth-best hitting percentage in a match (.525).
The team is ranked No. 2 in hitting percentage (.348) and No. 3 in opponent hitting percentage (.198) in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Lavaja is fourth in blocks (24) while Sander is ranked fifth in both points and kills (58).
BYU leads the series with UC Irvine (4-1, 1-1 MPSF) 39-12 and holds a 20-4 home record. BYU took the 2012 meeting, 3-2. The Cougars' last loss came in 2009 at home.
The Anteaters split a pair of 3-0 outcomes in conference home matches last weekend, defeating Pepperdine and falling to USC. UC Irvine hit a collective .405 against the Waves. Sophomore Zack La Cavera recorded 16 kills at .577 and junior Scott Kevorken was 7-for-8 with a .750 clip.
Junior Collin Mehring is ranked fifth in the MPSF in hitting percentage (.500) while Kevorken is in the eighth spot (.450). Mehring also holds the fifth best mark in blocks with 1.5 per set. Senior Chris Austin has 9.94 assists per set for the eighth ranking. La Cavera is seventh in kills (3.69) and tenth in service aces (0.44).
Sophomore Michael Brinkley holds the No. 1 spot for UCI in digs posting 3.18 per set. As a team, the Anteaters are No. 3 in the MPSF in blocks (3.24) and No. 4 in kills (12.88) and service aces (1.35)
UCI takes on Cal Baptist before traveling to Provo.
UC San Diego
The Cougars have never lost to the Tritons (2-3, 1-1 MPSF), holding a 32-0 series record. BYU won in the 2012 meeting, 3-2.
UC San Diego split a pair of 3-0 sweeps at home, upsetting USC before falling to Pepperdine. The win marked the first for the Tritons over the Trojans since the 2009 season, a span of seven matches. Carl Eberts recorded a match-high16 kills with a .414 clip, along with nine digs and five blocks.
Senior Chase Frishman holds the lone Triton individual ranking among the MPSF leaders with 2.33 digs for a seventh place spot. UC San Diego does not hold any top-5 MPSF team rankings.
The Tritons host Cal Baptist Thursday before traveling to BYU.
Student-athletes will be present at the match on Saturday with bins to collect T-shirts for the annual West Coast Conference T-shirt drive. The T-shirts will be donated to underprivileged people around the world through the non-profit group Clothes4Souls. For more information visit the release.