This week in practice, after losing to UCLA, we all came on Monday and there was just a different feeling. After every practice a teammate would come up and tell me, ‘Good job,’ and that helps me. So we were just all focused today. —BYU's Cyrus Fa'alogo
PROVO — At times stats really do tell most of the story in a sporting event, and the numbers compiled by the BYU men's volleyball team in a sweep over USC (25-17, 25-17, 25-22) pretty much attest to what happened in Thursday's MPSF Conference semifinal.
The big number was a .529 hitting percentage by the Cougars, which included a .667 percentage coming out in the first set and .600 in the second.
"I really like how our guys came out," said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. "Our offense was doing a really nice job and clicking on all cylinders."
It's not unusual for senior Brenden Sander to click on all cylinders, nor for star freshman Gabi Garcia Fernandez, but the biggest contribution in the kill department came from sophomore Cyrus Fa'alogo early. The Copper Hills graduate has come on strong late in the season and set out on Thursday knocking nine of his first ten kill attempts for points, in what could well be considered his best outing yet.
Fa'alogo finished with 12 kills, matching the totals of both Sander and Fernandez, with Sander heaping praise on his underclassman teammate, and everyone else who contributed big on Thursday.
“It’s awesome seeing these guys have so much success,” Sander said. “I want nothing else but for them to have all the success in the world, and it’s awesome to see that.”
Others knocking through so many kill attempts early works to open things up for Sander, and everyone else, something directly correlated to such a high hitting percentage.
“It makes it a lot harder for our opponents to key in on just one person,” Olmstead said. “And that’s where it’s important to acknowledge Leo (Durkin). I thought he made some really good decisions.”
Indeed a lot of goes into setting up the prime kill opportunities, with senior setter Durkin playing a central role. Also playing key was good and consistent serving along with quality touches when receiving.
The Cougars ran into some trouble in the third set, with the Trojans getting out to a 14-10 lead, but responded to finish out strong, largely due to some stellar serving.
“They knew they had to turn it up a bit,” Olmstead said of his team finishing out strong in the third set. “We got some good pressure from the service line to get them out-of-system and where they (had to) make some tough swings.”
While Fa'alogo finished things out strong, it was Sander topping things off in what proved to be the final set. The senior scored three straight kills for the Cougars late to help secure the win and put his team into the MPSF championship.
As for Fa'alogo, he quickly gave praise to his teammates for what was his best outing at BYU — noting a very productive week of practice leading up to Thursday's dominating win.
“This week in practice, after losing to UCLA, we all came on Monday and there was just a different feeling,” Fa’alogo said. “After every practice a teammate would come up and tell me, ‘Good job,’ and that helps me. So we were just all focused today.”
Turns out the Cougars will play that same Bruins team on Saturday for the MPSF championship after the Bruins got past Concordia University Irvine in Thursday's other semifinal.
“We’ve had a lot of big-time matchups and here’s another one,” Olmstead said. “We swept them here, and then got swept on the road, so here we are in the MPSF championship. But for us, it’s another match, and we’ve approached every match that way.”
Saturday's match will take place at 7 p.m. MDT at the Smith Fieldhouse and will be televised live on BYUtv.