A career night for Carson Heninger helped No. 8 BYU men’s volleyball to a five-set victory (19-25, 34-32, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12) over conference foe No. 7 UC Irvine on Friday on the road.
"I think we just had a little bit of a slow start and just felt a little flat initially," BYU head coach Chris McGown. "We made some subs, and particularly Carson came into the match and played really, really well. He did everything we asked him to do and just really played hard. I thought that was a big spark for us."
BYU (3-2, 3-0 MPSF) had three Cougars with double figure kills, including Taylor Sander with a season-high 25 kills, Heninger with a career-high 17 kills hitting a career-high .419 and Josue Rivera with a season-high 12 kills. Rivera tacked on 12 digs for his first double-double of the season. Sander added nine digs, and Heninger had a career-high four digs and career-high three blocks.
Michael Hatch and Sander led the team in blocks with four apiece, and Tyler Heap had 54 assists, a personal best. Heap had 10 digs, and libero Jaylen Reyes had 11 on the night.
Despite a slow start in the first set, the Cougars fought hard to change their game in the second. They came up short again in the third set but rallied for back-to-back set victories in sets four and five.
"I thought we gave up a lot of points in that first set just because we hadn't calibrated to the gym, the level and the way the ball was flying at us," McGown said. "I thought we got a better handle on that and then passed pretty well the rest of the way out."
BYU wasted no time in the final set, getting off to a 5-2 start on kills by Rivera, Heninger and Sander. Three straight kills by UC Irvine (3-4, 0-3 MPSF) put the Anteaters dangerously close at 10-9. With UC Irvine on the Cougars’ tails heading down the stretch, Sander picked up another kill to push BYU into match point position. Heninger finished off his career night with a kill to end the set, 15-12, and the match, 3-2.
Neither team gave up an easy lead in the fourth set, but errors helped BYU sneak ahead, 7-5. A kill by Devin Young and another Rivera ace pushed the lead to four. Heninger and Sander each contributed a pair of kills to give BYU a 16-9 lead, its largest of the night. The Cougars thwarted any Anteater attempts to close the gap, and a Rivera kill finished off the set, 25-18, to tie the overall score at 2-2.
In the first set, an early 4-0 scoring streak for the Anteaters put BYU behind, 8-4. The Cougars trailed by as many as six before rallying for a 4-1 run that forced a UC Irvine timeout. But 18-15 was as close as BYU would get the rest of the set. The Anteaters pressed on for a 25-19 set victory after the break.
Seven attack errors hurt the Cougars in the first set, contributing to a .080 hit clip. BYU turned it around to finish the match hitting .285.
BYU let UC Irvine take the lead again in the second but stayed within two points until a kill and an ace pushed the Anteaters ahead, 11-7. Two attack errors by the Cougars gave UC Irvine a 16-11 lead, its largest of the set.
Sander stepped up for BYU, throwing down two kills in a 4-0 run that cut the lead to 17-16. Sander teamed up with Hatch to block an Anteater attack to tie the set at 17-17. Tied again at 23-all, Heap set Rivera for a kill to take BYU’s first lead of the set and give the Cougars a chance at set point. An error and Anteater kill put UC Irvine back on top, 25-24. A point exchange ensued, leading to seven more ties before an Anteater attack error secured the 34-32 set for BYU.
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Heninger’s kill capped a 4-1 Cougar run to start the third set, but UC Irvine took a 5-1 run to jump ahead for an 11-9 lead. A Rivera ace tied up the score at 15.
Neck-and-neck midway through the set, the Anteaters pulled ahead 21-18 on three kills and a block. UC Irvine closed the 25-21 set on a kill to lead the match, 2-1.
BYU travels to La Jolla, Calif., on Saturday to take on UC San Diego at 7 p.m. PST. 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.