We like to make it interesting, I guess. It definitely was. —BYU coach Shawn Olmstead
PROVO — During Thursday’s volleyball match against Pepperdine, the Smith Fieldhouse video board occasionally showed a request a BYU fan had tweeted out.
“My sister came from China for this game,” Alli Brock posted. “You better win this. #DoItForAmy”
Although it’s uncertain whether the Brock sisters were the motivating factors, Alli and Amy both left happy — as did the rest of the crowd of 2,585.
Like Saturday’s come-from-behind, five-set thriller against Stanford, fifth-ranked BYU needed to rally out of a big deficit to earn this exciting victory in five, 22-25, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11.
“We like to make it interesting, I guess. It definitely was,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I’m proud of the guys for sticking to it. Going down two sets, that’s not the most ideal place to be in a volleyball match, but they were able to rebound and just play a lot better than they did in the first two sets.”
The rally gave BYU its eighth consecutive victory, improving the Cougars’ record to 13-4 overall and 6-0 in MPSF action. Pepperdine (9-4, 3-2) saw its five-match win streak come to an end.
This exciting outcome — on a day when the school needed some good sports news in light of the women’s basketball team’s quarterfinal loss in the WCC tournament — sets up a fun home showdown with third-ranked UCLA (14-4, 3-1) on Saturday night.
“UCLA and BYU, that’s always been one of the most premier matchups in men’s college volleyball. You’ve got to be excited being a part of that match,” Olmstead said. “If that doesn’t motivate you alone, I for sure can’t help you much. I think the guys are going to have that mindset.”
Olmstead is hopeful they’ll also have a mindset that helps them avoid falling behind big like they’ve made a habit of lately.
Pepperdine came out strong, outhitting BYU in those first two sets and being more aggressive and effective at the net.
The Waves held the lead for nearly the entire first set — only getting tied up 20-20 before finishing strong with three straight points — and then outlasted the Cougars in a back-and-forth second set.
It looked like this just might not be BYU’s night as the Cougars fell behind 3-1 in the third set, but Olmstead credited setter Leo Durkin (56 assists) and outside hitter Brendan Sander (17 kills) for providing solid senior leadership to help turn things around.
Sander made the set-winning kill — after one of freshman Gabi Garcia Fernandez’s team-leading 18 kills and a fake set by Durkin.
BYU controlled the fourth set to force a bonus fifth set, which got tight after the Cougars watched Pepperdine score four straight to tie it at 10-10.
BYU finished strong, and blocks by Durkin and sophomore Miki Jauhiainen sealed the fun victory.
BYU ended up converting on .355 of its attacks compared to Pepperdine’s .258, and the Cougars finished with 15.5 blocks to the Waves’ 13.5. BYU was stronger in kills (61-55) and digs (33-24) after the rough start.
Olmstead liked how his players put it in the locker room after the match.
“They felt like they started to play to win,” he said. “Where the first two sets there was a little too much hesitation and kind of looking to each other to make a play at times instead of just getting in there yourself, being aggressive and taking control of the rally as best as you can.”