Friday night's match was against the (then) #7 Anteaters of UC Irvine. The tension for this match couldn't have been higher as BYU beat UCI twice last season, but then lost to them 0-3 in the National Championship game. It appeared that the Anteaters finally knew how to beat the Cougars. Out of the gate BYU looked a little slow, and it took some time to get used to the altitude change (ball spin is more effective at low altitudes), and BYU fell in the first set 19-25.
Coming out in the second set BYU trailed again, but kept it close until some errors left them behind 11-16. Finally the Cougars started to come alive with Taylor Sander getting two kills and a block in a 6-1 run, tying the game at 17. The game then continued with eight more ties, and an extended set, ending with BYU winning 34-32.
The third set was even until UCI pulled ahead near the end to secure a 21-25 win, followed by a close Cougar win in the fourth 25-18. BYU finally started showing some dominance near the end of the fourth set and carried momentum into the final set. Fittingly the last two point in BYU's 15-12 victory were scored by Taylor Sander, who finished the night with 25 kills, and Carson Heninger, who had a career night with 17 kills and .419 hitting percentage, the highest of any Cougar this season (not including ones who had less than 10 attempts in a match). Heninger is a sophomore from Alberta, Canada and had played in very few sets until this breakout performance. He has added himself to the list of young, strong hitters that coach McGown can use to supplement Sander and Rivera. Other big players for BYU included Josue Rivera who had 12 kills and led the team with 12 digs on the night, and Michael Hatch who tallied four blocks and committed no errors (hitting, serving or blocking).
UC San Diego
The match Saturday night took BYU to La Jolla to take on the Tritons of UC San Diego. This match proved to be much easier for the Cougars who rolled to a 25-12 victory in the first set. The confidence inspired in the first set allowed for a variety of players to see time on the floor, as well as provided a setting for a record setting performance from Taylor Sander who notched 9 service aces, breaking the previous record of 8 set by Kevin Sagers in 2011. So far Sander has hit 144 aces in his BYU career which is not only the most in BYU history but is also 53 more than the next closest person, needless to say, his name will be in the record books for a while.
Taylor scored 13 kills on the night to lead the cougars to an easy 3-0 victory. Matt Underwood contributed another big game with 9 kills, 4 blocks, and a team high 8 digs and Michael Hatch also got two digs with his four blocks. Starting setter Tyler Heap played in just the first set before letting Robbie Sutton take over. Sutton played great getting 20 assists, showing that BYU has two reliable setters should one be injured or sick in the future.
Overall the weekend continued to help the Cougars build momentum on the season, bringing them to 4-2 (4-0). Hopefully BYU can have a good week preparing for their double home games this weekend against #6 Standford and Pacific. Being home in the Smith Field House should help propel the Cougars over Standford, and if they can maintain their composure against Pacific it will really help out their momentum headed into a 5 game road trip over the following three weeks. If you're in Provo this weekend come out and support the team, and GO COUGARS!!