No. 3 BYU men's volleyball fell to No. 2 Long Beach State in straight sets (25-16, 25-23, 25-18) Saturday night at Walter Pyramid to split the regular-season series.
"We didn't compete as a team tonight and that's unfortunate," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "We have to find a way to do that both nights. We'll get back to work in the gym to find a way to do just that."
Brenden Sander led the Cougars with nine kills and three digs. Erik Sikes added double-digit digs with 10 on the defensive end. Directing the offense, Leo Durkin collected 20 assists. Four Cougars tied for most team blocks with three apiece.
BYU (4-2, 2-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) and Long Beach State (6-1, 3-1 MPSF) started the first set evenly matched before the 49ers went on a 7-2 run to go up early, 9-4. A Price Jarman and Ben Patch block brought the Cougars back within two before Long Beach State scored the next pair to stay ahead, 14-10. The 49ers maintained their lead, fueled by a 6-2 rally, to force Olmstead to take a timeout with BYU trailing 18-12. The Cougars struggled defensively in the closing points as Long Beach State cruised to a 25-16 set one win.
Strong play at the service line from Patch and Kiril Meretev helped BYU take an 8-4 advantage to start the second set. The 49ers then battled back within two, but the Cougars surged to stay ahead by four at 14-10 after a Long Beach State service error. The 49ers were then helped with a 5-1 run to cut BYU's lead to one. The teams stayed within a point of each other from there until a Michael Hatch and Patch block gave the Cougars the 20-18 lead. The back-and-forth battle continued as a kill from Long Beach State's TJ Defalco gave his team set point and a block gave the 49ers the close set, 25-23.
Long Beach State carried its momentum from the end of the second set to the start of the third, taking a 6-3 lead after a trio of BYU miscues. A kill from Durkin kept the Cougars within striking distance, down four at 11-7. BYU had difficulty finding an offensive rhythm from that point as the 49ers went ahead by eight at 16-8. With Long Beach State ahead by nine at 18-9, the Cougars went on a 5-1 rally, which included kills from Sander and Tim Dobbert, to bring them back within five at 19-14. The rally proved to come too late as the 49ers ended the set, 25-18, on a BYU service error.
The Cougars stay on the road next week when they travel to face UC Irvine on Friday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. PST. Links to live stats and other match information 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.