No. 6 BYU men's volleyball fell to No. 2 Loyola-Chicago, the defending national champions, in four-sets (25-17, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23) Friday night at Stanford University to begin the season.
"From a numbers perspective, it definitely looked like the first match of the season," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "In terms of the lineup, I was encouraged that we were able to sub some guys in that helped us get back in the match. We're a little inexperienced in a few things, but the fact that we bounced back in the match and pushed them pretty far was encouraging."
Kiril Meretev led the Cougars with a team-high seven kills and five digs. On the defensive end, Jaylen Reyes tied the team high in digs with five, and Price Jarman contributed a team-high five blocks. Robbie Sutton guided his squad with 25 assists. Eight Cougars added multiple kills in the neutral-site match.
Loyola-Chicago (1-0) got off to a 4-1 start to begin the first set with help from a trio of BYU (0-1) errors. The Cougars then rallied back, going on a 3-1 run, to come within a point at 5-4. The Ramblers slowly regained a four-point lead at 10-6, but BYU managed to rally within a pair at 14-12 following a Loyola-Chicago attack error. The teams traded points from there with a Joseph Grosh kill keeping the Cougars within three at 17-14. McGown took his first timeout of the set with his team trailing, 20-15. BYU couldn't find an offensive rhythm to end the set as the Ramblers took it 25-17.
A Loyola-Chicago solo block put the Ramblers up 8-3 early in the second set, forcing a Cougar timeout. Out of the break, the two teams went back and forth with a Tim Dobbert kill keeping BYU within five at 12-7. Another Dobbert kill then capped of a 5-2 run, bringing the Cougars back within three at 14-11. Following three-straight Rambler points, BYU took its second timeout of the set, trailing 18-12. After a 4-1 Cougar run, led by kills from Grosh and Brenden Sander, Loyola-Chicago took its first break of the set while maintaining a four-point, 21-17 advantage. Three-consecutive BYU points, capped off by a Meretev kill, then brought the Cougars back within two at 22-20, forcing the Ramblers to take their final timeout of the set. BYU's late rally proved to be too short as Loyola-Chicago took the set 25-21 from a Cody Caldwell kill.
Jarman got the first point of the third set for the Cougars with a kill, and a Rambler attack error kept BYU ahead 8-4, forcing their team to take a timeout. With the Cougars ahead by as many as six at 11-5, Loyola-Chicago rallied off four straight to come back within two at 11-9. BYU stayed ahead in the set until consecutive points tied up the contest at 15-all. The set was also tied at points 16 and 17, but two Rambler attack errors put the Cougars back up by a pair at 19-17. The score remained close to the end as a Grosh block gave BYU the 25-22 set three win.
A Tyler Hutchins and Jarman block helped put the Cougars up 4-2 early in the fourth set, but three-consecutive Loyola-Chicago points followed to give it a 5-4 edge. BYU then went on a 5-1 run, with help from four Rambler attack errors, to go back up 9-6 and force a Loyola-Chicago timeout. After the break, the Ramblers used a 5-1 rally of their own to retake an 11-10 lead. The score was tied at points 10 through 18 before a Loyola-Chicago block gave it a two-point advantage at 20-18. Despite fending off four match points, the Ramblers took the fourth set and match, 25-23.
"We've got another tough match against another really good team in Lewis tomorrow, so we're going to rest up and work on what we can do better for tomorrow's match," McGown said.
The Cougars return to Stanford's court Saturday when they take on No. 9 Lewis at 4:30 p.m. PST. The match is free to the general public. Links to live stats and a video feed for the match can be found on the BYU men's volleyball schedule page.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.