What a match tonight at the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Long Beach State. In the end BYU won 3-2 (25-23, 25-14, 20-25, 21-25, 15-7) on the backs of star players Taylor Sander and Futi Tavana.
BYU and LBSU were neck and neck in game one with LBSU playing well. But the Niners found themselves hitting into the Great Wall of Samoa -- Futi Tavana. Futi got something like 8 (!) blocks in that first game alone and that was the difference in a tight set one win.
In game two the score was tied 12-12 when BYU went on a huge run. The Cougs pretty much steamrolled the Niners in that second set and looked poised to sweep the match. But LBSU was having none of that. The Niners came alive in sets three and four, solidly beating BYU in the third set and taking advantage of some atrocious BYU passing to close out a tight fourth set. But in set 5, BYU started hitting on all cylinders again. BYU remembered how to pass and they went to Taylor Sander early and often. The Cougars jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the game to 15 and never looked back.
Here are my random observations about the match and the team this year:
BYU probably blocks and pounds the ball better than any other team in the country.
BYU is a sub-par passing and digging team. While the powerful hitters and blockers regularly save BYU, the poor passing leaves BYU vulnerable most every night.
Futi Tavana is aptly nicknamed "Futi the Ferocious". What a luxury it is for BYU to have a human wall like him stuffing the ball up front.
Between Sander, Stowell, Rivera, Tavana, and Lavaja BYU has some absolute cannons on the floor. When setter Joe K gets a decent pass to work with, he has a lot of weapons to choose from.
Why is it that every team BYU plays seems to be able to dig hard hit balls way better than BYU? It is frustrating how many run of the mill hits from other team seem to get shanked by BYU passers.
BYU moves on next to USC's home court in a match against #2 seed Stanford on Thursday, April 26. If BYU wins that match they have a great chance of being in the Final Four -- especially if top seed USC advances to the finals as well. The Cougars can win their semifinal match if they bring their A-game. The BYU blocking and hitting should be there -- the question is, will BYU be shanking everything or passing on dimes? If it is the latter, look for BYU to advance next week.
***EDITOR'S UPDATE - 4/23/2012, 9:30 AM MT***
Good news came across the wire (read: Twitter) this morning from BYUtv's Jarom Jordan. BYUtv will be broadcasting Thursday's match live at 6 pm MT. If BYU wins and advances to the MPSF title game on Saturday, it too will be on BYUtv.