BYU volleyball: Favored Cougs hold off Long Beach state in five sets
Provo • Did any of the 2,221 suddenly anxious spectators inside the Smith Fieldhouse have flashbacks to a year ago when the favored Cougars crashed and burned during the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal men's volleyball match?
Certainly, there were apt comparisons as Long Beach State was trying to match what the lower-seeded Santa Barbara had done to the Cougars in Provo.
In the end Saturday, the Cougars found their poise and composure, squashing Long Beach State's upset bid, 25-23, 25-14, 20-25, 21-25, 15-7.
"It's easy to get frustrated, then two or three points roll off," BYU coach Chris McGown said. "In games to 25, two of three points are huge.
"We have to manage the mental part of the game."
Next stop for BYU is the Galen Center and a date with Stanford in the MPSF semifinals Thursday at USC. The championship match is set for Saturday.
Slow and out of sync to start the match, No. 3 seed BYU (24-6) quickly found its stride midway through the first game. Then BYU dominated the second, scoring nine straight points to bring them to the game clincher.
As usual, it was BYU's play at the net that made the difference. After two games, the Cougars had outblocked the sixth-seeded 49ers, 22-2, while hitting a robust .500.
Meanwhile, the 49ers, creaking along with a .161 hitting percentage, finally ramped up their offense in the third and fourth games.
"We just didn't play our game," said Taylor Sander, who finished with a game-high 22 kills. "We got frustrated. We put all the pressure on ourselves."
Then, as if someone flicked a light switch, BYU returned to its old form in game five. The Cougars opened a 9-2 lead and coasted home.
"We played well except for the third set," McGown said. "For us to come out and demonstrate our poise in the fifth, we needed that."
R BYU, paced by Futi Tavana's 13, outblocked Long Beach State 36-11
• BYU managed a .361 hitting percentage, while Long Beach State hit .237
• The Cougars meet Stanford in the MPSF semifinals Thursday at USC