PROVO, Utah – In its second five-set match of the year, No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team fell to No. 7 Long Beach State University 3-2 (23-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-16, 10-15) Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse.
“Long Beach played really well and were able to run an offense that we had a tough time defending," head coach Chris McGowan said. “They came out confident, and we didn’t have the emotion that we would’ve liked to have seen tonight."
The Cougars fall to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Long Beach improves to 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the MPSF.
Junior Taylor Sander led the Cougars with 21 kills, tied for a match-high, and six blocks. Freshman Ben Patch contributed 17 kills and three blocks while sophomore Josue Rivera added 13 kills and three blocks. Rivera led the team in hitting with a .346 clip.
Throughout the first several minutes of the match, both teams exchanged points until BYU pulled ahead 8-5 with a kill from Sander. Toward the middle of the set, Patch led the team with three kills to put the Cougars up 12-8. Despite the Cougars five-point lead at 15-10, several errors allowed the 49ers to tie the game at 15. BYU extended the lead back to three but once again let Long Becah State back in due to more errors tying the game 19-19. With the 49ers leading 24-21, Patch and Russ Lavaja exchanged kills to come within one, but Long Beach’s Taylor Crabb put the ball away from the back row to end set one 25-23.
A block in the middle from Lavaja tied the second set at 9 and a hitting error from Crab put the Cougars in the lead 10-9 for the first time since the start of the set. Great defense from both teams in the middle of the set prevented either offense from making much of an impact. Freshman Michael Hatch recorded his first career block and added another to put the Cougars up 19-15. Another block from Lavaja extended the Cougars lead, 22-17. To end set two, Ryan Boyce fed Patch who put the game away with a roll shot, 25-19.
Tied at one set a piece, BYU started off set three flat with several more errors allowing Long Beach to take an early 6-2 lead. Though trailing by six through much of the middle of the set, freshman Tyler Heap, playing in his first set as a Cougar, gave BYU a needed spark. Still trailing 23-17 late in the game, BYU cut the lead to five following a Lavaja kill and a Long Beach net violation. Long Beach went on to win set three 25-18.
Going into set four trailing 2-1, the Cougars took the lead 5-4 following a block and a kill from Sander from the outside. Several Long Beach errors and a strong presence from Devin Young in the middle gave the Cougars a 9-4 lead, its largest lead since the end of set two. Entering the midpoint of set four, Sander took over with several digs from the back row and a few kills in the front. Heap fed Patch who killed the ball from the right side putting the Cougars up 16-11. Following a dig by Hatch, Heap set up Sander who gave the Cougars a 20-11 cushion. BYU captured a 25-16 win in set four.
Going into the final set of the night, the Cougars trailed 5-2 early on. Sander’s kill from the right side and a kill from Rivera on the outside put the Cougars within two at 7-5. Down three, Heap set Patch on the right for the kill to make it 9-7. Still down by four at 13-9, Heap dug a Long Beach middle hit that set up Sander for the kill. Though the Cougars were looking for a comeback, Long Beach maintained the lead and took set five 15-10 and the match.
BYU returns to the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday night to play No. 9 Cal State Northridge at 7 p.m. MST.
Steven Tew is an SID at BYU Athletic Communications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org,