The unranked men’s volleyball team fell in three sets to No. 3 BYU on Friday, but it was not as easy of a victory as some might have thought if they casually glanced at the matchup on paper.
Ultimately, almost all of BYU’s players on the court contributed to make every play look like a perfect dig, an on-target set and point-earning kill.
“If they pass great, the advantage is definitely on their side of the net simply by virtue that they have a strong attacker in every position,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said before the game.
Both BYU and USC started the game missing key players. For the Trojans, rising transfer outside hitter Gianluca Grasso, who has been putting up consistent, strong numbers since joining the team a few weeks ago, was out due to a sprained ankle. His absence was clearly felt as USC was only able to put up 36 total kills to BYU’s 45.
For the Cougars, junior opposite and kill leader Ben Patch had to miss the game for an undisclosed injury, but missing Patch did not keep BYU from staying strong across the front.
BYU opposite Tim Dobbert and outside hitter Jake Langlois put up a combined 23 kills, with Dobbert hitting at .500 percent. The team also maintained their consistency with the help of libero Erik Sikes’ match-leading 12 digs and middle blocker Price Jarman’s match-best five blocks.
“I’m happy for the guys and their performance as a team,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Tim did a great job tonight, and Jake was aggressive in all areas. It was good to get some reps for the others as well, and they did a good job in that role.”
The game started out with USC taking control and leading 11-5 in the first set. The Trojans were in rhythm and appeared to be playing with ease. However, BYU slowly crept back and duked it out with the Trojans at the net to eventually take the set with three consecutive points to end it 27-25.
From there, BYU surged ahead with USC right on its heels, but it would be the Cougars again that pulled ahead far enough that USC couldn’t catch them at the end of the second set.
By the third set, BYU had hit its stride and held the lead for the entirety of the set to finish out the game with the victory.
Across the board, the Cougars outdid the Trojans in almost every category. They ended by hitting .352 to USC’s .168, nine blocks to four, 36 digs to the Trojans’ 27 and four aces to one.
Part of this could be attributed to their predominantly upperclassmen starters, who have been with the program and in the system for longer than the Trojans’ younger team.
“The more mature you are,” Nygaard said, “the more experience you have, the more comfortable you are in your own skin and the more comfortable you are with whatever is thrown your way.”