Top-ranked BYU volleyball efficiently sweeps USC

Top-ranked BYU volleyball efficiently sweeps USC

(Luke Franke/Deseret News/File)

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PROVO — The offense was running so efficiently, it would’ve been easy for BYU's Michael Hatch to take a step back and just watch Friday night.

He didn’t — but maybe he could have, and maybe nobody would've blamed the senior middle blocker in his penultimate regular-season home match.

“We didn’t pass super well … but we just hit really well on the high balls,” said Hatch, who had a match-best four blocks. “We took care of the tougher sets, and made it look easy. Jake, Ben and Brenden all make it look so easier.

“It was a little harder, and we can improve with our passing to be even more efficient.”

Ben Patch scored a match-high 12 kills and five digs, and top-ranked BYU put on an offensive clinic with a 25-15, 25-13, 25-15 sweep of Southern California in front of 4,137 fans at the Smith Fieldhouse.

The Cougars (22-3, 18-3 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) finished with a .556 hitting percentage, nearly double its .353 average — and it could hardly have been better, save for a .391 in the third set that featured a large allotment of substitutes.

Brenden Sander finished with nine kills on 12 swings, and Jake Langlois stuffed the box score with four kills, two blocks, two digs and a match-high four aces for BYU. Leo Durkin dished out 23 of BYU’s 35 assists, and Erik Sikes had six digs on the evening.

“There were a lot of good things. I felt the energy was good from the start from our guys,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I felt like our guys made a lot of plays, and it was exciting to be a part of. I really liked the guy’s energy.

“They stayed at it, without too many lulls, and I really liked what they did tonight in serving aggressively.”

The guys were really efficient. All the guys were getting involved, and it was really good. They were taking good swings, not getting too far ahead of themselves. But I felt they were really composed throughout the night, and took good swings.

–BYU coach Shawn Olmstead

The Cougars wasted no time, jumping out to a 16-7 lead in the first set after Langlois served three aces in a five-point span to take the big advantage.

BYU cruised through the opener to go up 19-9 on Sander’s blistering back row kill at the end of the set, and capped the run on a Trojan service error, 25-15.

“I think we played better than I thought we would,” Hatch said. “When you play those teams that are struggling, you never know. But we came out strong each set, and we were able to get some subs in, too. It was a good match.”

The Cougars put down 15 kills with just one error as they hit .700 in the second set. Tim Dobbert came off the bench and tallied two blocks, including the set-clinching triple block with Price Jarman and Langlois, to go up 2-0 at the break.

Dobbert also laid down a cheeky ace on the float serve just moments before, and went up for a double-block with Jarman to give the Cougars a 21-13 advantage in the second set.

“The guys were really efficient,” Olmstead said. “All the guys were getting involved, and it was really good. They were taking good swings, not getting too far ahead of themselves. But I felt they were really composed throughout the night, and took good swings.”

The highlight of the second set, though, was seeing Sander hover off the back row and fire a blistering shot that dipped inside the Trojans' back line for the Cougars’ 16th point.

The Trojans (7-18, 5-16 MPSF) took their first lead of the match since set two's opening point at 4-3 in the third set on Ryan Moss’ block. But BYU responded with a 15-1 run to regain control, and entered the non-starters for the final moments of the sweep.

Kiril Meretev set up match point with a kill at 24-14, and the Trojans finished off the match with a service error at altitude.

Lucas Yoder put down five kills to lead the Trojans, and teammates Jon Rivera and Josh Kirchner each supplied four kills.

BYU can clinch the MPSF regular-season title and home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament with a win Saturday over the Trojans.

But Olmstead, who has led the BYU men’s and women’s volleyball teams to national heights as a player and coach, shook his head so as not to think of that after the match.

“I didn’t go up there and say anything different, or do anything different,” Olmstead said. “We’re not going to do anything different as coaches, and they can’t do anything different. It’s what we do every Friday night going into a Saturday night match. They’re stretching, they’re recovering, and our prep tomorrow will be no different.

“We’re not changing things. It’s going to be a team back ready to play. That will probably be (USC’s) last volleyball match of the year, and that’s important to them. We’ve got to be respectful of them; it’s the most we can do for them, to compete with them.”


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