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BYU men's volleyball: Taylor Sander leads Cougars past No. 6 Stanford

PROVO — The BYU men's volleyball team overcame a second-set stupor to rise up and take down No. 6-ranked Stanford in four sets (25-20, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21) Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Once again, BYU star Taylor Sander led the way with 18 kills and five blocks, but it took the All-American a bit longer than usual to hit his stride.

After BYU controlled the first set from the outset, the Cardinal turned the tables in the second — taking advantage of some uncharacteristic nonchalant play from Sander and the team in general.

During a timeout late in the set, coaches challenged their senior star to step it up and get going.

Sander responded, and the team followed his lead.

The Cougars raised their game in the third set, matching the Cardinal throughout. After finding themselves down 19-16, Sander took over.

BYU went on a 6-1 run with Sander contributing four kills and a block to put his team up 22-20.

“We saw from the bench that there was a noticeable difference in how he (went) after things,” said BYU coach Chris McGown. “He was flying around the court, jumping all over, and all of the sudden when that happens the team just sort of follows what he does.”

The team also took advantage of 5,238 fans who packed the Smith Fieldhouse.

“You could just feel their energy coming down on the court and I thought that was the other big factor in the match,” McGown said. “They poured energy into this team and (we) rode it.”

BYU ended up taking the set 25-23 and continued its high level of play into the fourth.

The Cougars led throughout what proved to be the final set, but the Cardinal kept it tight until the very end when a run, spurred by junior Josue Rivera, closed it out.

With BYU clinging to a 22-19 lead, Rivera had consecutive kills to put his team within a game point of closing it out. Sophomore Carson Heninger then clinched the win with a well-placed kill down the baseline.

Rivera finished with 11 kills with Heninger stepping up big with 12 kills and three blocks.

“I love Carson, and how intense he is, and he was huge for us tonight,” Rivera said. “He got us started off and really helped make some big plays the entire match. We had a lot of guys step up tonight.”

“He’s kind of the ideal of what we talk about — where you work as hard as you possibly can every single day, give all that you have and … get better," McGown said. "That’s been him, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to come in and play well. He’s done it in practice and now he’s reaping the reward. It’s fun to see.”

Stanford was led by Steven Irvin and Brian Cook, who had 15 and 13 kills, respectively.

With the win BYU improves to 5-2 overall and 5-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.


Twitter: @BrandonCGurney