PROVO, Utah—Taylor Sander’s career-high .762 hitting put the BYU men’s volleyball team on top 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 26-24) in the Senior Night match against USC Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse. The win clinches the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament for the Cougars.
“Being senior night, one of the things we talked about was not having any family distractions or anything else," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "But that is what is so great about this team. It doesn’t matter what day it is or who we are playing, they come out and play. Tonight, we played a complete game. The guys did great offensively, they dug well and blocked well. It was pretty fun to watch. We still have a lot of volleyball left to play, and we hope to be back here to host the MPSF tournament.”
Sander led the team with 17 kills and three blocks. Ben Patch contributed 10 kills and a team-high five blocks. Michael Hatch also had five blocks and five kills, and Ryan Boyce helped out with 33 assists. Josue Rivera finished the night with a team-high four aces with five kills on the night.
For the second time in history, BYU (19-3, 18-2 MPSF) won all of its matches in March, going 8-0 during the month. The Cougars, riding an 11-match win streak, also hit a .545 clip, a season high and third-best in BYU rally scoring history. BYU made only seven hitting errors, while the Trojans picked up 19.
Tied 6-6, Hatch stepped up for two quick kills to push the Cougars ahead 8-6 for the last lead change of the first set. Boyce launched an 8-0 scoring streak for BYU on a kill. Back-to-back aces by Rivera gave BYU a 19-11 lead and a third ace by Rivera put the Cougars ahead 10 at 21-11, capping the run. Sander finished off the set with a kill for a 25-14 win.
Sander led with six kills on a .857 clip in the first set. The team hit .750 during the set, the Cougars’ highest hitting percentage in a single set this season.
BYU skipped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before USC could respond. The Cougars took a double-figure lead on a 10-2 scoring run. A block by Hatch, Patch and Sander brought the score to 17-7, and BYU took the set 25-15 on a Trojan error.
USC held strong in the third set, going ahead 3-1 to start the set and not relinquishing hold on the lead until late in the set. A Sander kill cut BYU’s deficit to 22-21 and the set was tied up 22-22 on a USC error. The Trojans couldn’t keep it together, as the Cougars took the lead 23-22 on a blocking error. An attack error by the Trojans put the Cougars at match point, but a kill by USC’s Tanner Jansen kept the Trojans in the game. Tied 24-24, Patch put down another kill and a Trojan attack error finished off the set 26-24.
BYU hits the road for a four-match trip to California to finish out the regular season, starting with a matchup at UC Santa Barbara Friday at 7 p.m. PDT.
No. 1 BYU (17-3, 16-2 MPSF)
No. 5 Pepperdine (15-9, 11-7 MPSF)
USC (5-13, 5-13 MPSF)
PROVO, Utah – In its last two home matches of the regular season, the No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team welcomes No. 5 Pepperdine Thursday and USC Saturday to the Smith Fieldhouse.
Thursday’s match kicks off at 7 p.m. MDT while Saturday’s match is slated for 8 p.m. MDT. Both matches will be broadcast live on BYUtv.
The Cougars are ranked No. 1 in the AVCA national poll for the fourth-straight week and received all 16 first-place votes. BYU, sitting atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings, is riding a nine-match win streak.
Senior setter Ryan Boyce is this week’s AVCA National Player of the Week and MPSF Player of the Week. Boyce led the Cougars to straight-set wins at then-No. 9 CS Northridge and then-No. 4 Long Beach State. He averaged 12.17 assists, 2.17 digs and 1.67 blocks per set for the week.
The Cougars lead the MPSF in hitting percentage (.326), opponent hitting percentage (.234) and blocks (2.98).
Michael Hatch is first in the conference in blocks per set with 1.47. BYU has three players in the No. 4 position in hitting percentage, assists and service aces in Russ Lavaja (.471), Boyce (10.54) and Taylor Sander (.390), respectively.
The Waves are tied for fourth in the MPSF standings with UCLA and are coming off a 3-1 loss to USC.
Pepperdine is second in hitting percentage in the conference with a .314 attack, one spot behind BYU. The Waves also have the second-best average in kills (12.99), assists (12.45) and blocks (2.94).
Maurice Torres leads the MPSF in points with 5.04 per set and is second in kills with a 4.21 average. Matt West has the second-best assists average with 11.42.
Pepperdine owns the overall series with BYU, 28-22. The Cougars dropped the previous match-up with the Waves, 3-2, on Feb. 15. Pepperdine served BYU one of its two conference losses this season, along with Long Beach State.
The Trojans snapped a five-match losing streak with a 3-1 win over Pepperdine last week. During the win, USC served 12 aces, the second-most in the conference this year.
USC is third in the MPSF in service aces with a 1.27 average.
Micah Christenson sits at the top of the service aces category in the MPSF with 0.54 per set. Henry Cassiday is fourth in digs with a 2.35 average.
The Cougars lead the Trojans in the overall series with a 29-11 record. BYU came away with a 3-1 win over USC Feb. 16.
USC is three matches back in the MPSF Playoff race with six to play.