BYU men's volleyball: Cougars sweep Hawaii to start 2013 season

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2013 10:25 p.m. MST

PROVO — The No. 2-ranked BYU men's volleyball team followed up Friday's straight-set victory over Hawaii with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20) win over the Warriors on Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Junior All-American Taylor Sander led the way with a game-high 18 kills and .500 hitting percentage. Freshman Ben Patch added nine kills, with Russ Lavaja contributing six kills and 10 blocks.

JP Marks led the way for Hawaii with a team-high 14 kills, with Nick West adding another nine.

The Cougars came out strong and sharp — jumping on the Warriors early before cruising to relatively easy victories in the first two sets. Sander provided almost flawless play and a gaudy .833 hitting percentage over that period.

"I don't think he missed a single kill in the first set, and it was like he couldn't do anything wrong no matter what," BYU coach Chris McGown said. "I think at one point there was a bad pass and someone just kind of underhanded it to him and he just jumped up and got a kill out of it. … He was hitting everything so precisely no matter how he was set up."

Great play from Sander was expected following a stellar sophomore campaign and an entire summer working out with the U.S. National team. Through two matches he has connected on over 50 percent of his kills while showing marked improvement in every area of his game.

"I have a lot of things to work on, but I'm happy with how I've started the season and how the team has started," Sander said. "I worked so hard all summer and I'm a lot more confident. And with the teammates I have around me it makes it easy."

After dominating Hawaii through two sets the Cougars had a bit of a lapse in the third and ultimately lost 26-24. The Warriors built a 16-10 lead midway through and withstood a furious rally to hand the Cougars their first dropped set of the year.

"I don't think we were as aggressive from the service line and we got tentative," McGown said about the dropped set. "Hawaii got some confidence and really started to play better, I felt. But we had a lot of guys — young guys — step up and we met their challenge and closed out strong."

BYU built off its momentum gained at the close of the third set to put away Hawaii in the fourth, 25-20. As one would suspect, it was Sander who closed out the match with a kill.

Overall, McGown and his players are happy with their start to the 2013 season, but know there are areas they'll need to improve on moving forward.

"I feel we hit most of our marks through the first two nights, and if we can just get our serves in better then I think we'll have a lot of potential to do some good things this year," McGown said. "I'm very pleased how we've competed and how we've played together, and now we just need to keep that going and improve in some things we know we can get better."

The 2-0 Cougars will next take on No. 5 Lewis for consecutive matches next weekend at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: BrandonCGurney

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