PROVO — The No. 1-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team is rolling. On Thursday in front of a raucous home crowd at the Smith Fieldhouse, the Cougars rolled all over a tough No. 5-ranked Pepperdine team 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18). Thursday's victory was the 10th win in a row for the Cougars against yet another tough MPSF opponent.
But BYU again proved equal to the task.
As usual it was Taylor Sander leading the way. He had 17 kills and a .452 hitting percentage. Ben Patch contributed 13 kills with Josue Rivera adding 10.
Overall the Cougars converted on 46.8 percent of their hits and were generally firing on all cylinders.
“I thought we played really well and we’re starting to string together matches where we play really well,” said BYU coach Chris McGown. “These type of performances is what we’re starting to do night in and night out and the guys are starting to understand how good we can be.”
BYU jumped all over Pepperdine early — taking advantage of uncharacteristic sluggish play from the Waves. The Cougars got out to a 9-4 lead and never looked back on the way to a convincing 25-15 first-set win.
Pepperdine woke up and gave BYU all it could handle in a competitive second set where neither team enjoyed more than a 2-point lead. The Cougars took a 22-20 advantage late, but the Waves rallied to score four of the final five points and take the set 25-23.
“Pepperdine played a lot better, but we didn’t play poorly,” McGown said about the second set. “We played well, but they were just phenomenal and we didn’t execute during some key moments.”
Pepperdine took its momentum into the third set and led 14-10 midway through — forcing BYU into an early timeout. McGown used the timeout to encourage his players to refocus, and they responded and eventually won the set 25-23 with Sander providing the winning point on a kill that sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
“It was massive for us,” McGown said about coming back to win the third set. “When we were down 14-10 I didn’t get any sense of a foreboding sense of doom or that we were in trouble there. I just had a sense that we’d get going and snap back and it happened. The guys got on it and it was very fun to see.”
While BYU’s play was stellar throughout the third, Sander was quick to credit a louder-than-normal home crowd.
“They helped us get back into Game 3, I think,” Sander said. “They’re a huge advantage and they kind of scare other (teams) and put a lot of pressure on them to play good. It was a huge match and I think everyone understood that and our (crowd) was a huge advantage for us especially during that third set, I think.”
The fourth set remained close until BYU went on a 9-3 run that all but buried Pepperdine for good.
With 10 wins in a row under its belt and the distinction of having beat every team in a highly competitive MPSF conference the Cougars are as confident late in the season as they’ve been in some time. With just five matches left to play in the regular season the team likes its chances at a Final Four berth and maybe even a national championship.
“We work as hard as we can and the boys are really tight-knit, I think,” McGown said. “I think it’s a very close team and in terms of being good teammates and good guys this is as good of a group as we’ve had. The guys really like each other, work hard for each other and push each other.”
With the win BYU improves to 18-3 on the year and 17-2 in MPSF play. It will return to the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday at 8 p.m. to take on USC.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
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