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.
The Utes took the DU Invite crown with a total of 902 points, 57 points ahead of runner-up Colorado. Utah led the way in the Nordic competition with 446 points and was second in the men's 15K freestyle rankings with 124 points as three Utes were among the top 10 competitors.
"This was another great weekend for the University of Utah ski team," Utah Head Nordic coach Abi Holt said. "I'm really proud of how this group has managed their race and recovery efforts through this challenging first-race period. It's fantastic to see so many of our athletes posting top-10 finishes and it's just good fun to watch Miles and Didrik battle one another for the podium positions. Now we're all looking forward to 10 days at home before we head to Alaska."
Smith led the way for the Utes with his third podium finish out of four races during the first two weekends this season. The Bekkestua, Norway native turned in a second-place effort, just .6 seconds ahead of teammate Miles Havlick. Smith has now finished in the top three in two straight races and four times during his career at Utah.
"Today was another great day for the team," Smith said. "Miles and I stayed in the lead pack during the whole race, and we were in the hunt for the win. It's nice to be up there and know that you are in good shape. Racing in such a high altitude is always hard, and it did not help that the course was really hard. I'm proud to be a Ute today."
Havlick, the reigning RMISA Men's Nordic Skier of the Week, was the third skier to cross the finish line and has been on the podium four straight times to start this year. Havlick, a Boulder, Colo., native, has finished third or better 12 times in his Ute career and has been second or higher 10 times.
Tom Smith was the third Ute to finish 10th or better as he took seventh place for the second consecutive race. He has taken 10th or better three times this year and eight times in his Utah career.
Senior Rolf Figi placed 22nd.
Utah's women's skiers were sixth in the 10K freestyle race with 84 points as Rose Kemp was the lone Ute in the top 10. Kemp, a Boise, Idaho native, set the pace for the Utes in seventh place. She has finished 10th or higher six times over her career and in all four races to start the 2012 season.
Junior Parker Tyler followed with a 15th-place effort, while her classmate Mali Noyes joined her among the top 20 with a 19th-place finish.
The Utah ski team will take next weekend off before heading to the Alaska Anchorage Invitational (Nordic — Feb. 4 and 6; Alpine — Feb. 8 and 10) and the Seawolf Invitational (Nordic — Feb. 9 and 10; Alpine — Feb. 9 and 11).
USU GYMNASTICS: At Denton, Texas, a night of career-highs helped the Utah State gymnastics team come away from a quad-meet hosted by Texas Woman's University in a close-call third place finish Saturday night. No. 10 University of Oklahoma came away as the winners of the meet with a final score of 197.450. Host TWU finished in second place with 192.425, just a tenth of a point ahead of the Aggies' 192.325. Centenary College finished in fourth-place with 191.400.
Taking second in all-around competition, freshman Sarah Landes set a new career-high in all but one event, and bested her previous all-around score, for a total of 38.925. Junior Amelia Montoya beat her career-high on the uneven parallel bars, notching a score of 9.800, to finish tied for fifth as the highest scoring Aggie in the event. She also set a new high on the vault with a 9.750, to earn a final of 38.300 in the all-around competition. Sophomore Paige Jones set a new career-high in her all-around with 38.525, boosted by placed fifth on vault with a team-leading 9.825. Jones was fifth in the all-around while Montoya was sixth. Junior Amanda Watamaniuk also earned a personal best on the vault, landing a 9.675.
Landes was the highest-placing USU gymnast on beam, tying for seventh with a 9.750 while Jones was the top Aggie on floor, tying for eighth with a 9.800.
Freshman Ashley Follett, who grew up nearby in Flower Mound, Texas and moved to Utah right before her senior year of high school, got the meet started for the Aggies opening with a 9.600 on the beam. She was followed by Jones who notched a 9.200 in her first meet of the season. Freshman Susie Miller was next, who with a fall, earned a 8.825. Montoya was next with a 9.025 while senior Haley Hogan followed with an 8.900. Landes wrapped up the event with a 9.750, just beating her score from last week's meet at Utah.
After the first rotation, the Aggies were in fourth with a total of 46.475. OU led with 49.375 on bars, followed by Centenary at 48.525 on floor and TWU with 48.350 on vault.
Moving to floor for the second rotation, Miller landed a 9.75 and Watamaniuk finished with a score of 9.600. Landes was next, landing a 9.750, again beating her score from last week for a new career-high. Montoya followed with a 9.725. Jones was next with a 9.800 while Follett concluded the event with an 8.450. The Aggies finished floor exercises with a total of 48.625, for a running score of 95.100.
After the second rotation, Oklahoma maintained their lead with 98.625. Texas Woman's was at 96.900 while Centenary was at 96.575.
On vault for the third rotation, freshman Breyanna Aufiero kicked it off with an 8.625. She was followed by Watamaniuk and her career-high score of 9.675. Miller went next, stopping herself from falling and notching a 9.575. Montoya nailed her landing, earning a 9.750, also breaking her personal record. On a roll, Landes was next, again beating her career-high with a 9.725. Jones rounded out the event with a 9.825, tying her career-high. Every score counted in the USU vault total was either a new or tied career-high.
The Aggies ended the third rotation with a total of 48.550, with an overall score of 143.650. With one event remaining, OU was at 148.075, Texas Woman's at 144.350 and Centenary at 143.800.
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To conclude the quad meet, the Aggies moved to the uneven bars, with senior Rebecca Holliday up first. She earned a 9.750, followed by a new career-high of 9.800 from Montoya. Watamaniuk was up next with a 9.150, preceding scores of 9.700 from both Landes and Jones. Freshman Kaitlyn Betts wrapped up the rotation as well as the meet with a score of 9.725, a new high score for her after competing at Utah last week.
After two straight weeks on the road, the Aggies are heading back to Logan for a four-meet home stand. The team will return to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Friday, Jan. 27 where they will host Western Athletic Conference rivals Southern Utah and former WAC foe Boise State in a tri-meet that starts at 7 p.m. (MT).