BYU men's volleyball: Cougars sweep Cal State Northridge
Provo • Focus was the talking point all week for the BYU men's volleyball team, as in keeping the eye on the prize.
The reason was a loss Saturday at Long Beach State that may have thwarted the Cougars' plans of hosting their conference tournament.
So, now with little wiggle room for any more mistakes, BYU's trek to the postseason began with a three-game sweep Thursday against Cal State Northridge in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Cougars came out with such energy and emotion, they threatened to finish the match in a shorter time than it took the Matadors to drive from Salt Lake International Airport.
BYU took 15 minutes to dispatch Northridge in Game One, then went on to close out its 25-10, 25-20, 25-20 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match.
The two teams meet again Friday at 7 p.m., before No. 4 BYU (19-5, 15-4) completes its MPSF season next week at UCLA.
"The guys were chapped after Long Beach and the coaching staff was too, quite frankly," BYU coach Chris McGown said. "So we talked about it all week. The last third of the season, basically, we've got 11 matches left, counting the national championship, so this is the night we wanted to start a different mental attitude.
"I thought the guys were great coming out."
Not that everything was perfect. Northridge (10-14, 6-11) took a two-point lead midway the third set, thanks in part to a disputed line call.
McGown, cool and composed most of the match, took his emotion to another level.
"We missed that call and then we had some mental lapses," he said. "That was one of the things we talk about. We just can't be great and then put it on cruise control. These sets to 25 happen so fast."
The speed in which BYU put away Game One was astonishing. The Cougars, led by Taylor Sander and Robb Stowell, roared out with a .533 hitting percentage. BYU hit .423 overall.
Sander finished the match with 16 kills and a .750 hitting percentage. His domination was summed up by one play in Game Three. Northridge blocked Sander's initial shot. Instead of waiting for setter Joe Kauliakamoa to begin another attack, Sander simply leaped up and smashed a winner.
"Not a lot of guys can do that," McGown said. "He brings some gifts to the court. I'm glad he's on our team."
Defensively, BYU put up a wall with nine blocks, three by Russ Lavaja. The Matadors were crushed, hitting a minus .250.
"We played the numbers," said Lavaja, who praised his coaching staff for the game plan that limited CSN to a match hitting percentage of .044. "We made some changes throughout the match and it ended up in our favor. For sure we have to do better tomorrow.
"We feel there is nobody that can stop us except ourselves. If we get out there and play the best we possibly can, we can do great things," Lavaja said.
BYU def. Cal State Northridge 25-10, 25-20, 25-20
The BYU men's volleyball team outhit Cal State Northridge .423 to .044.
Taylor Sander and Robb Stowell combined for 27 kills on 44 chances.
BYU held the Matadors to a negative .250 percentage in game one.