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BYU volleyball: Cougars sweep USC behind Underwood’s career night

By Royce Hinton

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 28 2014 11:30 p.m. MST

BYU's Taylor Sander (15) celebrates a point against USC on Feb. 28, 2014.

Mark A. Philbrick, Mark A. Philbrick

Sophomore Matt Underwood led No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball to a 3-0 sweep (25-22, 25-16, 25-21) over No. 7 USC on Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

“The best part about tonight was our serve and serve/receive,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “(USC) came in with a little bit of a different strategy to just try and put it on us and try and make us play. They held their service errors way down, but we did a really good job at the same thing. I thought we kept them out of system all night.”

Underwood had a career-high 15 kills and three digs to go along with a career-high .542 clip. Senior Taylor Sander added an additional 15 kills and game-highs in service aces (four) and digs (seven). Sophomore Tyler Heap had a game-high 36 assists, and sophomore Michael Hatch led the team in blocks with five total.

BYU (11-3, 11-1 MPSF) hit a .308 clip as a team while holding USC (10-6, 9-6 MPSF) to a .217 hitting percentage. The Cougars also led in service aces, 6-0, and overall blocks, 9.5-2.5.

Underwood got things started for the Cougars in the first set with a decisive kill. From there, the Trojans maintained a slight edge until BYU scored three-straight to tie things up at 14-14 and force a USC timeout.

With the score tied at points 14 through 17, the Cougars went on a quick 3-1 run to jump ahead, 20-17. BYU was able to maintain its lead until set point, where a Trojan attack error gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead, 25-22.

Another Underwood kill capped off a 4-1 BYU run to open the second set, but USC stormed back to cut the Cougar advantage to just one at 6-5.

After the Trojans tied the set at three consecutive points, Sander scored with a service ace to help pull his team ahead, 16-13. USC called its first timeout of the set after Underwood set a new career high in kills (previous high was 10), pushing BYU’s advantage to 19-15. The Trojans scored just one point after the timeout as the Cougars easily cruised to a 25-16 set two victory from a Josue Rivera kill.

The third set was tightly contested coming out of the intermission, with neither team taking more than a one-point lead until two-straight team blocks put BYU u,p 12-10. The score remained close following the Cougars’ first timeout of the third set, with USC tying the score at 19 for the first time since the 10-10 mark.

A kill from Rivera completed the 3-0 sweep with a 25-21 set-three win to keep BYU with a perfect home record.

“Matt (Underwood) had a great night tonight. That’s a position that teams will overlook to some extent because we’ve been running different guys through that spot, but Matt had a really nice night,” McGown said.

BYU continues play at home Saturday night as the Cougars host No. 4 Pepperdine at 7 p.m. MST. The match will be broadcast live on BYUtv. Links to live stats and a video stream can be found on the BYU men’s volleyball schedule page.

Royce Hinton is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.

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