PROVO — BYU men’s volleyball provides local fans with the rare spectacle of facing the nation’s very best most nights at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Adding considerably to the spectacle is the fact BYU usually wins.
As if to punctuate that point, the team dispatched two top 10 teams over the weekend in straight sets. Friday night the victim was No. 7 USC. Saturday night it was No. 4 Pepperdine.
The No. 2 Cougars trounced the Waves three sets to none (25-23, 25-22, 25-23) in front of a typically packed and raucous Smith Fieldhouse.
Once again it was senior superstar Taylor Sander leading the way for BYU with a game-high 18 kills and six blocks. Pepperdine was led by Parker Kaimbach and his team-high 13 kills.
The Cougar All-American’s best work may have come at the end of the second set.
With the Cougars clinging to a 23-22 lead, Sander unleashed a serve so violent that it ricocheted off an inspecting Pepperdine Wave and brought the home crowd to its feet. Two side outs later, Sander closed it out with yet another well-placed kill.
“It’s fun to have a front row seat for that,” said BYU coach Chris McGown about Sander’s play.
It’s also been fun for the team to win 12 of its last 13 matches.
Indeed, the Cougars are playing at a very high level as they head into the home stretch of the season.
“We’re happy with the progress we’ve made to this point, but we’re certainly not satisfied,” McGown said. “Maybe that’s just who we are — perpetually dissatisfied.”
Nothing short of a national championship satisfies the team most years, and it’s the same story this year. Considering the high level of play BYU puts forth most years, it’s somewhat surprising its last national championship came in 2004.
That 2004 team was honored between the second and third sets Saturday night, as the current team continues to work on matching the 2004 team’s ultimate success.
In order to get to that national championship, McGown believes it’s important to continually strive for improvement regardless of how well the team is playing currently.
“I told the guys after the match that they’re really playing good volleyball right now, but I also believe there’s so much upside to get to,” McGown said. “The message for us is to get back to work on Monday and be about the business of trying to get better every day and see where this goes.”
With the win, BYU improves to 12-3 on the year and 12-1 in MPSF conference play. It will next head out on the road to take on Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge next weekend.