“Sometimes you just got to win ugly,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said after BYU defeated No. 15 Ohio State Friday evening at the Smith Fieldhouse. 

The eighth-ranked Cougars won by the slimmest of margins, needing four sets to earn a seventh victory at home. BYU took care of business with set scores of 25-23, 25-23, 23-25, and 25-21. 

“We just made these strange errors,” Olmstead continued. “There’s moments where you’ve got to just move on and you’ve got to give the ball to the opponent. … Volleyball is always a game of momentum.”

The Cougars had just enough momentum to beat the Buckeyes in the schools’ first meeting in four years. The match was the eighth time that Ohio State had made the trip to Provo, but just the second time in the last 21 years.  

BYU entered the contest having lost four of its last six contests, all four defeats coming against top-five competition. The Buckeyes had not had much better luck, losing three of their last four. But BYU had the advantage Friday, playing at home after nearly a month on the road. 

“It does not compare to anywhere else,” Cougars’ sophomore outside hitter Luke Benson said of playing in the Smith Fieldhouse. “It was just amazing. I love it here so much.”

There was a lot to love about what Benson did on the court after getting the nod in the starting lineup for the third consecutive match Friday evening. He made the most of his opportunity, putting up 14 kills, a .452 kill percentage, and three aces.

“The coaches have been working with me a lot on it,” Benson said of his serving after an impressive night from behind the line. “They’ve been helping me to follow through and that’s really helped me to drive the ball in, get the ball in more.”

Benson and the Cougars went back and forth with the Buckeyes in the first set, neither team holding more than a three-point advantage. BYU’s largest lead of two points came at the perfect time, giving the school set point. However, the Cougars nearly squandered that opportunity before a challenge from Olmstead gave his team the victory and saved it from playing into extra points.

The following set, BYU immediately changed things up, jumping out 3-0. Ohio State kept it tight from there, equaling the Cougars score five times down the stretch but never taking a lead. BYU again cut things close at the end but still came away with another two-point victory. 

Ohio State returned the favor following intermission, earning its own two-point win. The Buckeyes closed the set on a 5-1 run, keeping the Cougars from what would have been their fifth sweep of the season. Ohio State turned to junior outside hitter Jacob Pasteur, who finished the set with seven kills and a block, two of those kills and the stuff coming during the Buckeyes’ run at the end. 

“I don’t think we were very good closing out,” Olmstead said. “We showed that in every set where we had a two-to three-point lead and let our foot off the gas. So we’ve got to be a lot tougher. We’ve got to have a lot more heart and a lot more fight and we didn’t tonight. That’s why it became this match.”

BYU did a better job in the final set, scoring three of the last four points to pull away late and take the match with the largest margin of victory on the night. The Cougars’ win keeps them undefeated in Provo, where they will remain through the end of the regular season. 

Olmstead gushed over BYU’s fans and the decided home court advantage they give his team.

“It means the world to have the support we have here at BYU,” he said.

The Cougars played most of the contest without senior setter Heath Hughes, who is recovering from a broken finger. However, Hughes did make a few appearances interspersed throughout the match, marking the first time he had played since a Feb. 11 victory over UC Santa Barbara. 

Olmstead said Hughes may see a bit more action when BYU and Ohio State meet tomorrow evening in Provo. The Buckeyes will be trying to break what is now a three-match losing streak against the Cougars. Ohio State’s last triumph over BYU came in 2017 when they beat the Provo school in the national title.  

After playing the Buckeyes for a second evening in a row Saturday, the Cougars will have a week off before resuming conference play. 

Tomorrow’s match against Ohio State is scheduled for 7 p.m. with live coverage on BYUtv.