COLUMBUS, Ohio — The BYU men's volleyball team needed just a little over an hour to take down Barton in straight sets (25-19, 25-11, 25-15) and advance to the semifinal round of the NCAA championships on Tuesday.
After incurring a bit of a slow start, the Cougars rolled — mowing through Conference Carolinas champion Barton in a fashion much like a heavily favored team should.
Brenden Sander led the way for the Cougars, scoring 11 kills on a .409 hitting percentage, with Jake Langlois adding seven and Tim Dobbert six. Overall the Cougars swung at a .386 hitting percentage to Barton's .067 and scored 18.5 blocks to the Bulldogs' two.
Sander also led the way in individual blocking stats — scoring seven block assists with Price Jarman adding five.
“It starts on the service line,” Jarman said of his team's huge advantage in team blocks. “Our guys were putting a ton of pressure on them — making them have to run for the ball. It makes it easier for us to read and get in good spots.”
As for Sander, he was happy with his team-leading stats, although leaving the St. John Arena seeking improvement.
“I can always get better, and coaches are always pushing me to get better and better every day,” Sander said. “So I think I can play even better than I did this game in the next few matches.”
As mentioned, the Cougars got off to a bit of a slow start before hitting their stride midway through the first set. Leading the way in the first set was Tim Dobbert, who started in place of Ben Patch at the opposite hitter position. He responded with five kills on a .400 hitting percentage in the first set, while adding two block assists.
Sander finished off the first set with an ace — setting up the Cougars for what proved to be a blowout from start to finish in the second set.
Soon after establishing a big early lead in the second set, Cougar coach Shawn Olmstead opted to take out Dobbert in favor of Ben Patch, with the team not missing a beat. Patch quickly threw down his first three kill attempts with authority, as the Cougars walked away with a 25-11 second set win.
“It’s nice to have options,” Olmstead said of using both Dobbert and Patch. “I tell the guys all the time that you want to make tough choices as a coach. If we’re making easy choices, we’re not as good as we want to be. So you want to have tough choices and sometimes they’re hard.”
Another big key in the second set was setter Leo Durkin, who scored two aces amidst a 7-0 scoring run that put the Cougars up 8-1 early. Durkin's relatively soft serving proved tough for the Bulldogs to handle, as he was able to hit good spots and get them out-of-system consistently.
“Float serves can move a lot and it’s like a knuckleball,” Durkin said. “So as long as you’re serving in seams and making the passers move, you can do a lot of damage.”
Barton rebounded and started the third set much better than the second and managed to tie things up at 10-10 about midway through. From there, the Cougars rolled, however, to the tune of a 15-5 run to come away with a convincing victory.
Overall Olmstead came away satisfied with his team's performance — particularly with how his players responded after getting off to a bit of a slow start.
“We needed to feel a little more comfortable with what we were doing,” Olmstead said. “They needed to work a little better with their transition, and they did. Once we got on a role, there — we felt a lot more comfortable digging and transitioning the ball.”
With the win the Cougars advance to the semifinal round where they'll face MPSF champion Long Beach on Thursday.