No. 3 Cougars fall in three to No. 2 49ers


LONG BEACH, Calif. – No. 3 BYU men's volleyball fell to No. 2 Long Beach State in straight sets (25-16, 25-23, 25-18) Saturday night at Walter Pyramid to split the regular-season series.

"We didn't compete as a team tonight and that's unfortunate," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "We have to find a way to do that both nights. We'll get back to work in the gym to find a way to do just that."

Brenden Sander led the Cougars with nine kills and three digs. Erik Sikes added double-digit digs with 10 on the defensive end. Directing the offense, Leo Durkin collected 20 assists. Four Cougars tied for most team blocks with three apiece.

BYU (4-2, 2-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) and Long Beach State (6-1, 3-1 MPSF) started the first set evenly matched before the 49ers went on a 7-2 run to go up early 9-4. A Price Jarman and Ben Patch block brought the Cougars back within two before Long Beach State scored the next pair to stay ahead 14-10. The 49ers maintained their lead, fueled by a 6-2 rally, to force Olmstead to take a timeout with BYU trailing 18-12. The Cougars struggled defensively in the closing points as Long Beach State cruised to a 25-16 set one win.

Strong play at the service line from both Patch and Kiril Meretev helped BYU take an 8-4 advantage to start the second set. The 49ers then battled back within two, but the Cougars surged to stay ahead by four at 14-10 after a Long Beach State service error. The 49ers were then helped with a 5-1 run to cut BYU's lead to one. The teams stayed within a point of each other from there until a Michael Hatch and Patch block gave the Cougars the 20-18 lead. The back-and-forth battle continued as a kill from Long Beach State's TJ Defalco gave his team set point and a block gave the 49ers the close set 25-23.

Long Beach State carried its momentum from the end of the second set to the start of the third, taking a 6-3 lead after a trio of BYU miscues. A kill from Durkin kept the Cougars within striking distance, down four at 11-7. BYU had difficulty finding an offensive rhythm from that point as the 49ers went ahead by eight at 16-8. With Long Beach State ahead by nine at 18-9, the Cougars went on a 5-1 rally, which included kills from both Sander and Tim Dobbert, to bring them back within five at 19-14. The rally proved to come too late as the 49ers ended the set 25-18 on a BYU service error. 

The Cougars stay on the road next week when they travel to face UC Irvine Friday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. PST. Links to live stats and other match information can be found on the BYU men's volleyball schedule page.