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College roundup: No. 1 Cougars beat USC again; Utes take Denver Invitational title

Combined reports

Published: Saturday, Jan. 21 2012 11:32 p.m. MST

USU's Sarah Landes as the University of Utah gymnasts team defeats Utah State University Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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PROVO — Pushing its win streak to six straight, the No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team defeated No. 5 USC 3-2 (25-22, 26-28, 25-15, 19-25, 15-13) in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday in front of 4,261 fans.

Taylor Sander had a team-high 25 kills and notched the winning kill to go with two aces and nine digs.

Robb Stowell tacked on 21 kills, 11 digs, three blocks and an ace for BYU while Joe Kauliakamoa had 62 assists.

"It was pretty nerve-wrecking but we definitley had some help from the crowd that was unbelieveable," said BYU coach Chris McGown. "You could just see the boys feeding off of the energy and it really pulled us through in the fifth set. They really worked hard for this win and it shows."

After the first four sets resulted in a 2-2 tie, BYU and USC put on an entertaining fifth and deciding set for the match. With BYU leading, 6-5, BYU's Josue Rivera hurdled the chairs that comprised the BYU bench, hitting the ball and sending it back into play to ignite the Cougar crowd.

BYU eventually lost the point, but the hustle play inspired BYU. Setter Kauliakamoa kept feeding the bread and butter of Stowell and Sander as the Cougars went to match point on a Stowell kill before finishing off the Trojans at 15-13 with a spike down the middle from Sander.

"It was a battle for sure and the crowd helped us along," Sander said. "We work really hard during the week and it was good to come out of this weekend with two wins. We dont like to go five, but I think it was a good learning experience for us and it feels great to come out on top."

The Cougars dominated the third set, taking over after another hustle play, this time by Stowell. After reaching into the crowd to save a deep ball, the senior then ran back to dive for the dig on the Trojans' ensuing spike to again keep the point alive. Stowell's save went to Kauliakamoa who set up Sander for a kill off the USC wall to pull BYU ahead, 14-8.

The point sparked the Cougars and put USC on its heels. Sander's kill was the last point in a 6-0 run for BYU, who later scored six of the final eight points of the set to take the game by 10 points, 25-15.

Four different Cougars served up aces in the set as the team hit a match high .478, led by six more kills from Sander.

In the first set on fourth game point, USC committed a service error to give BYU the 25-22 win. BYU started to pull away early in the set, taking an 11-7 lead after a service rocket by Sander down the middle of the Spartan side. 16-11 lead after back-to-back kills by Stowell who led the Cougars with six kills in the set.

With set two tied at 10-10, the Cougars took control after claiming three-straight points to take a 13-10 lead. BYU held off the Trojans, but never had more than a four-point lead throughout.

The lack of a major run by the Cougars enabled USC to tie the game at 23-23. BYU had two set points, but couldn't finish, allowing the Trojans to take the second set for the second time in as many nights.

In set four, USC turned an 11-10 deficit into a 15-11 lead, sparked by back-to-back aces from Micah Christenson. The Trojans cruised from there, taking the set by six, 25-19.

The top-ranked Cougars will test their win streak on Feb. 3, with a weekend homestand at the Fieldhouse against Stanford.

UTES WIN DENVER INVITE: At Granby, Colo., Didrik Smith and Miles Havlick both placed in the top three and the University of Utah ski team wrapped up first place in the Denver Invitational after Saturday's freestyle races at the Devil's Thumb Ranch. The Utes have won both team titles to start the 2012 season.

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