No. 3 BYU men’s volleyball couldn’t pull off a win in its season opener, falling to No. 7 Loyola Chicago in a closely contested sweep (28-26, 25-23, 25-22) Friday night at Gentile Arena.
With the win, the Ramblers (2-0) have defeated two top-five teams in as many days. They defeated No. 1 UC Irvine, 3-2, on Thursday night.
“We certainly weren’t surprised by the fact that this is a very good Loyola team,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “We had control of the first and the last sets, but they played better down the stretch.”
Senior outside hitter Taylor Sander led the team with 11 kills, also adding four digs and two block assists. Sophomore Tyler Heap had a career-high 31 assists on the night, while blocker Devin Young led the Cougars (0-1) with five blocks.
Service errors plagued both teams, with BYU collecting 11 and Loyola collecting 17. Four of Loyola's six service aces led to set victories.
BYU took an early 5-3 lead on a kill by Heap, but Loyola stayed in the first set and tied the score at 8-8. Rambler errors kept Loyola from overtaking the Cougars, and back-to-back Sander kills pushed BYU to a 16-13 lead. Kiril Meretev and Michael Hatch blocked Loyola for a four-point Cougar advantage, the largest lead of the set.
Loyola closed the gap with three straight kills, tying the set at 20-20 on a block. BYU fought to keep the lead, but after six more ties Loyola’s Cody Caldwell pushed the Ramblers ahead 27-26 on a service ace. Despite nine service errors in the first set, Loyola’s second ace of the match secured the set point.
The Cougars skipped ahead 3-1 to start the second set before Loyola rallied to tie the score, 6-6. Sander momentarily rescued the lead for BYU with a kill until Caldwell came up strong with a kill for the Ramblers to steal the lead, 9-8.
BYU struggled to overcome a three-point deficit until late in the set, when Heap set Meretev for a kill, which was followed by a kill from Sander to cut the score to 21-20. Heap and Young teamed up to block Thomas Jaeschke to tie the set at 21-21. After two more ties Loyola came out on top, 25-23, taking a 2-0 lead in the match.
Coming out of the break, BYU whipped up a 7-2 run in the third set. With the Cougars up 14-10, Loyola went on a 4-0 scoring streak to tie the game at 14-14. BYU stayed calm under the pressure, answering with its own 4-1 run launched by a Josue Rivera kill.
Strong attacks let Loyola shave down the BYU advantage. Tied once again at 21, the Cougars allowed a Rambler kill to surrender the lead. Loyola took the match on back-to-back aces.
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"Hopefully this loss is one of those where we can figure a few things out, learn a few things and get better," McGown said. "The bad losses are the ones where you don’t learn anything from them.”
BYU remains in Illinois for a matchup with No. 10 Lewis on Saturday in Romeoville, Ill., at 7 p.m. CST. Links to live stats and live video streaming can be found on the BYU men’s volleyball schedule page.
Rachel Hawks is the men's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.