PROVO — BYU seems to have a habit of producing stellar freshmen most years that greatly aid with the team's overall success. Several years ago it was currently star Taylor Sander. Last season it was Ben Patch. This year it just might be Tim Dobbert.
The 6-foot-10 German has come on strong in recent games and played a big role Friday night in BYU's straight set victory (25-22, 25-22, 25-17) over No. 8-ranked and defending NCAA champion UC Irvine.
Dobbert played most the way and contributed 11 kills, four blocks and a team-high two service aces.
“He was a little up and down early, but then made some really good swings, I thought, in crunch time situations,” said BYU coach Chris McGown.
Perhaps Dobbert's most notable swing came with a service ace to close out the second set. With the Cougars leading 24-22, the Anteaters called a timeout in hopes of breaking Dobbert's rhythm. But the tactic failed as the true freshman hit a well-placed ball that found the middle of the floor.
“He’s not trying to ace it. He’s just trying to make good serves, and sometime aces happen,” McGown said. “He served a good serve and it was a nice way to finish the set … I think all the time he’s put in is starting to pay off.”
From there, the Cougars dominated the play and walked away with a relatively easy 25-17 win in the third set to give them a straight set victory.
Taylor Sander again led the way with a game-high 19 kills while Josue Rivera added nine kills, a season-high five blocks and a service ace. Like Dobbert did in the second, Rivera cleaned up the final set with a hard-hit ball that glanced off a defender out of bounds for the decisive three-sets-to-none victory.
UC Irvine was led by Connor Hughes and his team-high 10 kills.
BYU had a decision edge in team blocks — winning that battle 14 blocks to just 3.5 for UC Irvine.
“I thought that when we had chances to defend at the net — when (UC Irvine) didn’t pass so well that we did a really good job (blocking),” McGown said. “They pass well, so we didn’t always have those chances … but when they didn’t pass so well, that’s when I thought our blockers got in a good spot and we didn’t reach in funny places. We got in a good spot and did a nice job.”
Just about everyone got in on the block party with six different players assisting on three or more blocks. Setter Michael Hatch led the way with the team-high six, with Devin Young adding five.
It was as decisive a victory as they come against a stellar UC Irvine team that probably wasn't playing its best after a long road trip.
“I think to some extent they’re a little road weary,” McGown observed. “They had a couple of gnarly back-to-backs with Hawaii. The second night went five sets, and you got to make that trip and come back. And then a quick turnaround to Utah, so I think the travel (caught) up with them a little bit.”
As for the Cougars, and especially Dobbert, they were again fueled by a typically raucous Smith Fieldhouse crowd.
“With the crowd here, it’s so much easier than away games,” Dobbert said. “All the students that go crazy here. It’s just amazing.”
With the win, BYU improves to 14-4 on the season and 14-2 in MPSF Conference play. Next up for the Cougars is a match against UC San Diego Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.