Cougars fall in five to Trojans in MPSF quarterfinals


LOS ANGELES – No. 5 seed BYU men's volleyball fell in a five-set battle (25-17, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-13) to No. 4 seed USC in the quarterfinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament Saturday night at the Galen Center. 

"This was a tough, tough loss tonight," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "I thought we showed up for the most part tonight when we needed to. I liked the way that we battled back throughout the match, especially in the last three sets. Ultimately, USC made just a few more critical plays at critical times and that cost us the match."

Matt Underwood led the Cougars with 18 kills on a .357 clip to go along with seven digs. Robbie Sutton contributed a team-high 39 assists while adding 10 digs for a double-double. Jaylen Reyes added double-digit digs with 17 while Michael Hatch collected eight blocks in the match. Brenden Sander additionally added double-digit kills with a career-high 17. 

Kiril Meretev got the first point of the decisive fifth set for BYU (17-10, 14-8 MPSF). USC (19-8, 15-7 MPSF) then took a 4-3 edge after a kill. Another Meretev kill gave the Cougars an 8-7 advantage at the court switch. A pair of BYU attack errors ensued to put the Trojans back up 11-10, forcing a Cougar timeout. USC then took the first two-point advantage of the set at 13-11 on consecutive kills. BYU rallied to come back within a point at 14-13 but a Trojan kill ended the set and match 15-13. 

USC got off to a hot start in the first set after three kills gave it an early 5-0 lead. BYU trailed by as many as seven before a bad set from the Trojans' Micah Christenson brought the Cougars back within five at 15-10. A Sutton and Hatch block kept BYU within striking distance, down 20-15, but USC ended on a 5-2 run to take the set 25-17. 

The second set began much more evenly paced by both sides as the Cougars had an early 6-4 edge on a Joseph Grosh service ace. A pair of Sander kills then helped BYU increase its lead at 16-10, forcing a timeout from the Trojans. A pair of USC kills helped it get back within four at 19-15, but a Trojan service error gave the Cougars set point and a Sander kill ended the set 25-20.

Five USC kills started the third set for the Trojans as they jumped out to a 6-2 lead. Kills from Sutton, Sander and Jake Langlois then helped BYU come back within a pair at 10-8. It went back-and-forth from there until USC began to open up the set with a 5-1 rally to go back up 17-11. After a Cougar timeout, BYU used a 5-2 run of its own, capped off by a Sander kill, to come back within three at 20-17. The Cougars continued their rally from there, coming within a point after another Sander kill at 23-22, before the Trojans took the close set 25-22 on a block.

USC opened up the fourth set with four-straight blocks en route to a 6-2 advantage early on. An Underwood kill brought BYU back within three, down 11-8. The teams battled back-and-forth from there until a 4-2 Trojan rally put them ahead by five at 20-15. Down 21-18, the Cougars used a 7-2 rally, led by three Hatch blocks, to take the close set 25-23 and send it to a decisive fifth set.

BYU loses three seniors from its roster for the 2016 season, but returns All-American Ben Patch who is back from his LDS mission.