This was really important. We needed this momentum to go into the post season. We came together, said that we needed to do it, and we pulled it off. —BYU's Phil Fuchs
PROVO — The BYU men's volleyball has experienced many ups and downs this season, but certainly finished off the regular season in style with a thrilling five-set win (22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 15-13) over No. 1-ranked Hawaii on Saturday. The game marked the end of the regular season and the last game played at Smith Fieldhouse for the team's seniors.
Speaking of seniors, Phil Fuchs certainly rose to the occasion with a game-high 22 kills, matching his career high. He also contributed a game-high five blocks, including one in the fifth set that put the Cougars up 12-9 which prompted a body-surf celebration by the senior.
"I actually got tripped up by one of my teammates, but I thought, 'Hey, I'm going to go with it.' And so I just dove to the ground," Fuchs said.
Fuchs' play, and accompanying celebration, perhaps exemplified just how important Saturday's match was for the team, and particularly for Fuchs and fellow seniors Jaylen Reyes and Josue Rivera. Reyes again provided solid play at the libero position while Rivera had to watch from the sidelines due to being injured.
"This was really important. We needed this momentum to go into the postseason," Fuchs said. "We came together, said that we needed to do it, and we pulled it off."
Hawaii responded to Fuchs' block with two straight points before Josh Grosh put BYU up 13-11 with a well-placed kill. From there the teams traded points before the match ended with Hawaii hitting the ball into the net antenna for BYU's final point and the 15-13 final set win.
The final point put the team, and a more boisterous than usual home crowd, into a frenzied celebration.
"It's fun to come out on top of a match like that," said BYU coach Chris McGown. "I'm just so happy for our seniors, the way they played. It was just awesome to see them go and do that."
Getting to that final point was certainly a challenge against the hard-hitting Rainbow Warriors, who lived up to their billing as the country's top-ranked team.
Hawaii was particularly good during the first set, holding off the Cougars late to take it 25-22.
The Cougars charged back in the second, led throughout and then finished the Warriors off with a Brendan Sander kill to take the set 25-21 and square the match at two sets apiece.
Hawaii was able to edge out the third set 25-23 before BYU took charge and took the fourth set 25-18 to send the match to a fifth and deciding set.
"Guys just did a great job staying composed and playing through the entirety of the match," McGown said.
BYU matched Hawaii blow for blow in the fifth set until gaining some breathing space at 12-9 after Fuchs' block and inspired play by Sander, a true freshman.
"The level he's gone to in the last three weeks has been remarkable," McGown said of Sander. "He was phenomenal down the stretch. He was really composed, took some huge swings and made a bunch of really good plays for us."
Sander finished the match with 16 kills, which included four in the fifth set.
With the win BYU finishes out the regular season with a 17-9 overall record and 14-8 record in MPSF play. Next up is an always competitive MPSF tournament in which BYU will try and earn another bid to the six-team NCAA Tournament.
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