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BYU men's volleyball: Cougars finish strong to get by Lewis in 4 sets

PROVO — A couple of changes made after the second set paid big dividends for the No. 3 BYU men's volleyball team in a four-set win (25-21, 23-25, 25-15, 25-15) over No. 6 Lewis Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Sophomore Storm Fa'agata-Tufuga led the way with 13 kills, with freshman Gabi Garcia Fernandez and senior Brenden Sander adding 12 and 11 kills respectively. Overall, the Cougars outhit the Flyers and really worked to separate the hitting efficiency after incurring an early 6-3 deficit in the third set.

BYU coach Shawn Olmstead doesn't recall anything profound said during the timeout, but did credit a couple of changes made after the second set that helped things considerably for his team.

"We made a few adjustments there that I felt were really important between sets two and three," Olmstead said. "We made a few adjustments on their attackers that we just really tried to hammer home, and that's why we were out there a little later than normal after the 10-minute break."

The Cougars forged a 15-5 run out of the timeout and ultimately took the third set by a healthy 25-15 margin. Finishing out the set was sophomore serving specialist Wil Stanley, who was rotated in specifically to serve out the set, and responded with a well-placed ace.

BYU's ace game continued into the fourth set, with Sander pulling a couple of change-ups that left Lewis scrambling, helping the Cougars get out to a quick 6-1 lead.

"That was huge. That was really big for us," Olmstead said of Sander's two aces to start the set. "I thought Brenden made some really smart serves there. He got them kind of going backwards throughout the match, so those just dropped in there. … And that's a really tough serve to do. You expect a full-speed jump-serve, and then you take something off."

Sander added another ace, adding to his team's seven aces on the night to none for Lewis.

As for Fa'agata-Tufuga, Olmstead was pleased with what he saw from his promising sophomore.

"We told Storm to just kind of play loose and enjoy the game," Olmstead said. "He buckled down, but he played with more of that feeling. Just a little more loose and we just tried to slow things down for him as much as we could."

Regarding his true freshman opposite hitter, Fernandez, Olmstead is understandably excited by what he's seeing just two games into the season.

"The composure to go back and serve, and even after he makes mistakes, he's just ready to go and go. And that's what I like a lot," Olmstead said of the 6-foot-7 Puerto Rico native.

The win provided some spark after the Cougars dropped a five-set match to No. 13 Loyola-Chicago the night before. Considering the team's relative youth, Saturday's win showed the team is ready to respond and learn from the mistakes that almost always accompany a young team.

"It was good for the guys," Olmstead said. "This program has had a lot of success at home, so for these guys to respond that way after last night — that's important. That's a good team (we played against), and that's a really good win for the guys."

Next up for the Cougars are road matches at Ball State and then at defending NCAA champion Ohio State.