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PROVO — Not everyone can start in a volleyball match, especially for a team like top-ranked BYU.
Senior night was a time to recognize those guys who don’t always get the first nod on the court.
With head coach Shawn Olmstead trying to play as many upperclassmen as possible, senior Carson Heninger delivered the match-winning kill to give No. 1-ranked BYU a 25-16, 25-12, 25-17 sweep of Southern California and clinch its third Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title in four years.
Price Jarman led BYU with seven kills and six blocks, and Ben Patch added seven kills and two blocks for the Cougars, who enter next week’s MPSF tournament as the top overall seed. Leo Durkin had 22 assists and five digs, and Robbie Sutton supplied six assists, two digs and a block on Senior Night.
“Any time you have a senior class like this, no matter what the playing time is, it’s a bunch of people who have put in work year after year and put aside so much time for their teammates,” Olmstead said. “It’s a pretty big sacrifice. Whether or not it’s recognized, it’s still everything. They are giving everything to this team to play for the most.
“It’s a pretty big contribution, and we recognize it and want to honor it when we can.”
Jarman took control of the final set, as well as the match, with a pair of rapid-fire kills that gave the Cougars (22-3, 18-3 MPSF) a 17-12 midway through the final frame.
These guys know what is coming and what is ahead of them. It’s a different feel in the locker room. It’s pretty subdued, and they know the conference tournament is pretty brutal. It’s competition night in and night out from here forward, and everyone is fighting to play another day. They know that is coming.
–BYU coach Shawn Olmstead
From there, BYU went to its bench, with role players like Matt Underwood, Tyler Hutchins and Kiril Meretev finishing off the Trojans (7-18, 5-16 MPSF) in the final home regular-season match of 2016.
“I’m happy for the guys, and excited to get the win and win the conference,” Olmstead said. “But we’re still far from anything; we’ve just got to stay the course, keep getting better and know that nothing is changing right now.
“These guys know what is coming and what is ahead of them. It’s a different feel in the locker room. It’s pretty subdued, and they know the conference tournament is pretty brutal. It’s competition night in and night out from here forward, and everyone is fighting to play another day. They know that is coming.”
BYU took control of the first set at 11-7 on Sander’s stick-back kill, then went up 20-14 on Price Jarman’s perfectly set-up ball from Robbie Sutton. The Cougars scored six of the final eight points, and took the opening set on Tim Dobbert’s block.
The BYU spikers put down six blocks in the first set, three of them from Jarman, and finished the match with 11 total blocks.
“I think we just served really well and got them out of system,” said Michael Hatch, a senior who finished with four blocks and three kills. “Their sets became a little more predictable, and we could see where they are going to get there ahead of time.”
Patch dipped an ace just inside the back line to put BYU up 8-5 early in the second set, and the Cougars didn’t let up from there. The sophomore from Provo High gave his team a 12-6 advantage, and Jarman tallied his sixth block of the match to bring up set point, 24-12 before USC returned a ball long to go into the break down, 2-0.
The Trojans were held to a negative hitting percentage in the second set, totaling nine attack errors with just six kills on 20 swings. BYU, meanwhile, hit .667 with nine kills on 12 swings and just one error. Alex Slaughter led USC with six kills and two blocks, and Ryan Moss added five kills for the Trojans.
“We had goals, and these guys have hit some objectives. But I think they are ready to get more and play more,” Olmstead said. “They’d play again tomorrow night and the next day if they could. They’re clicking at a good level, and it would be nice to keep that thing going.”
BYU opens the MPSF tournament quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m. MT at home — contributing to that subdued post-match attitude.
“This is great, but it means almost nothing for us. All that matters is that we get to the final four and make it to the national championship,” said Hatch, who described the senior class as “a fun group of guys who loves to have a good time.”
As far as the MPSF regular-season trophy, the Cougars will enjoy it — but not for long.
“It’s a good morale booster, and we get to host. That’s good,” Hatch said. “But our goal from the beginning of the season wasn’t just to win the MPSF regular season. It includes a national championship.”