PROVO — The No. 4-ranked BYU men's volleyball helped its bid for an at-large berth to nationals with a four set victory over No. 7 Penn State (20-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-18.) The Cougars got off to their typically slow start with the Nittany Lions taking advantage — outscoring the Cougars 8-3 to finish out after the set was tied at 17. BYU committed a total of 14 total errors to Penn State's five with the team a bit too hyped up and anxious according to Coach Chris McGown.
"I think we went out and tried to do too much early — every serve had to be an ace and we missed to many as a result," said McGown. "We had way too many errors while Penn State played great, so I think we were just pressing a bit too much."
The second set started poorly for the Cougars with the Nittany Lions jumping out to an early 6-2 lead — forcing McGown to call an early timeout.
Following the timeout the Cougars quickly worked to tie it all up at 7-7 with set remaining close until BYU managed two straight points to tie to the match at one set apiece.
Following halftime, it was all BYU. The Cougars took each of the next two sets by comfortable margins as the team simply settled down.
"We didn't change too much (at the half), I think it was just a mentality thing," said McGown. "I just told my guys to relax a bit and go out there and have some fun. …Penn State started missing some shots, too, and we took advantage of that and were able to roll after halftime."
BYU was led by Sophomore Taylor Sander and his 20 kills, followed by seniors Futi Tavana and Rob Stowell who had 10 and seven respectively.
Setter Joe Kauliakamoa led the team in blocks with six while recording 39 assists.
"I thought Taylor (Sander) played a great game," said McGown. "Joe (Kauliakamoa) was setting well and we just worked much better as a team in the second half. We'd obviously like to start better, but I like how our guys settled down and played after dropping that first set."
With the win BYU strengthens its bid to the NCAA tournament committee as they seek a spot in the national final four. The two teams will match up again tomorrow night for the final game of the regular season.
"I think that it will motivate our guys (playing their last game), but I think more than anything — this team — it will really motivate the group that aren't seniors because they really want to support these guys," said McGown. "To get two wins against a team like Penn State won't be easy, but we have to come out and get it done tomorrow."