PROVO — In certain matches there are brief, significant moments that sort of encapsulate the entire match. For the BYU men's volleyball team, that moment came late in the fourth set during its thrilling four-set win over Long Beach State (26-28, 25-23, 25-18, 25-23.)
With BYU clinging to a 22-20 lead, a rally ensued that brought the Smith Fieldhouse crowd to its feet to cheer on not only the Cougars, but also the 49ers for taking almost everything thrown at them and giving it back.
"We were crushing the ball at them, but they kept digging everything," said BYU Chris McGown of the rally. "So I thought that was pretty allegorical of how they played and how good they were tonight defensively. It was just really tough for us to end a rally and it was probably the best defensive team we've faced all season."
Fortunately for the Cougars, true freshman Brendan Sander ended the rally with yet another crushing kill that flew off the 49er block before sailing out of bounds. With the point, BYU gained a 23-20 advantage, and shortly after ended things for good with a Jake Langlois kill to take the set 25-23 and the match.
It was fitting that both Sander and then Langlois provided the match's most significant points considering each led the team in total kills with 15 and 16, respectively. Both players are in their first years playing at BYU and certainly rose to Saturday night's big challenge.
"It's nice to see how certain players respond to the pressure and this was a pressure match," McGown said of Sander and Langlois' play. "Getting that court time for those two guys kind of lets us see where we can get better. So that was nice too."
Long Beach provided the pressure early, taking the first set 28-26 after the Cougars jumped out to an early lead. It then played BYU almost even in the second before being edged out 25-23.
The third set saw BYU up its hitting percentage considerably, managing a sterling .464 percent while cruising to a relatively easy 25-18 third set win.
Then came the fourth set, where both teams played at a high level from start to finish. BYU actually upped its hitting percentage to .486 percent in the final set while Long Beach held steady at .312, but it was the 49er defense that rose to the occasion and made things what they were.
Long Beach was led on the night by Dan Glamack, who scored a game-high 17 kills with Cody Martin adding another 14.
Ultimately McGown believes Saturday night's challenge could benefit his team considerably.
"We talked to our guys in the locker room afterward, 'You kept at it.’ ” McGown said. "We passed well and we took good, smart swings even when they were putting a ton of pressure on us. So it's really good for us."
With the win, the No. 5-ranked Cougars improve to 11-3 overall and 10-2 in MPSF Conference play. Next up is two home matches against Ball State.
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