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BYU volleyball remains hot, bests USC for fifth consecutive win

BYU men’s volleyball plays USC on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.
BYU men’s volleyball plays USC on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah. | BYU Photo

BYU took care of No. 11 USC in a rare Thursday showdown at the Smith Fieldhouse, beating the Trojans in four sets.

The Cougars earned the win on set scores of 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20.

BYU moved up in the polls to No. 7 entering the week, after spending five weeks ranked No. 8. Thursday, the Cougars continued their upward trajectory as the season begins to near its end.

BYU and USC have been trending in opposite directions, the Cougars’ win giving them their fifth straight victory while handing the Trojans their fifth defeat in a row.

The win also gives BYU its 27th consecutive triumph over USC in Provo, the Trojans’ last road victory over the Cougars coming in 1996.

“I liked how our team fulfilled roles that needed to be fulfilled,” BYU opposite hitter Kupono Browne said. “I think (our) guys really stepped up and helped fulfill the serving role as a whole.”

The Cougars finished the evening with six service aces, coming from four different players. Browne praised sophomore hitter Luke Benson’s contribution off the bench.

“(He) provided such an uplift for us,” Browne said of Benson. “Luke fulfilled a massive role. Offensively, he came in and served great.”

BYU looked great for the first half of the initial set before USC took a slim lead midway though. Senior serving specialist Jon Stanley helped the Cougars put together a 5-0 scoring run to roar back ahead late, taking a 23-19 advantage. The teams would split the next four points, resulting in a BYU win.

USC scored 10 of the second set’s first 12 points; the resulting eight-point lead keeping the Trojans ahead the rest of the game. BYU chipped away at that lead, getting within two points twice in the final moments of the set. However, the Cougars’ slow start ultimately proved insurmountable as USC finished the job and tied the match at 1-1.

BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo
BYU Photo

“We did everything to gift wrap that for them,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I think in a way we kind of surprised USC. … We just gave them way too many points.”

Olmstead felt his team’s youth contributed to its inconsistency. “The reality is that’s a little bit of what our team is with some youth on the court,” he said of the Cougars’ mistakes. “I recognize that I’ve got to be better to help them, put them in those situations in practice so that that does not occur.”

BYU began the next game with greater intensity, the school never trailing in a dominant third-set performance. The Cougars used a 4-0 run and a 6-0 run to go ahead 19-9. Things were just a formality from there as BYU put itself one win away from taking the match.

The Cougars earned that final win in set four, again avoiding a deficit the entire game. BYU’s largest lead came with the ending score, the school earning three of the final four points.

The Cougars welcome the sub-five-set win, it being their first such victory in nearly three weeks.

“Not going to a fifth set is lovely,” Browne said before acknowledging the growth that’s come from those grueling matches. “But I think we needed that to figure out how to get going as a team.”

Browne definitely got going for BYU Thursday, ending the night with 22 kills on a .579 kill percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Miks Ramanis chipped in 13 kills of his own to go along with two blocks.

The win pushes BYU’s record above .500 in conference play for the first time this season. It also keeps the Cougars in control of third place in the MPSF standings with just three matches to play.

One of those matches will be played tomorrow evening when BYU and USC meet again in their second of two bouts at the Smith Fieldhouse. The contest is scheduled for 7 p.m.