BYU overcomes early mistakes, gets back on track in win over Long Island
The victory puts the Cougars at 8-3 on the season
By Tom Ripplinger
It took BYU men’s volleyball a couple of sets to really get going, but once it did, the No. 8-ranked Cougars were able to put an exclamation point on a 3-0 victory over Long Island at the Smith Fieldhouse Thursday night.
BYU downed the Sharks by set scores of 25-23, 25-22, and 25-16.
Cougars coach Shawn Olmstead was not pleased with his team’s early struggles.
“I think (we) need to come out … way more aggressive, way more assertive,” Olmstead said. “You got to come out and just run through a wall. I don’t care who you’re playing.”
The contest marked the first time that BYU and Long Island had met on the volleyball court. The Cougars managed to pull away, snapping their two-match losing streak and earning their first victory since a Jan. 23 sweep of Princeton in Provo.
The match was BYU’s first in nearly two weeks, after the school had a bye the first weekend of February that gave it extra time to figure out what went wrong in its two defeats to UC Irvine at the end of January.
“I think we needed it,” BYU senior opposite hitter Kupono Browne, who finished the night with four service aces, said of the break. “Our two matches with Irvine kind of showed us that we have a lot to work on in transition, on covering, defense, like honestly just all around. And so we spent the last two weeks really trying to hone in on those skills.”
The time off did not seem to give the Cougars much of an edge over the Sharks in the first set Thursday as the teams went back and forth, neither taking a lead of more than two points while matching scores 15 different times. BYU used three consecutive points late, capped off on an overpass kill from the school’s senior middle blocker Gavin Julien, to take a 23-21 cushion.
The Cougars stayed ahead from there, ultimately eking out the two-point win.
The next set Long Island bucked game one’s trend, jumping out to a 3-0 lead immediately. BYU soon made up that ground, behind impressive serving from Browne. The Honolulu native helped the Cougars take the lead with two service aces, sandwiched by a kill from sophomore teammate Trent Moser, keeping the school from trailing again the rest of the set.
“That’s what we know Kupono can do,” Olmstead said of his productive night. “He’s dealt with a couple nagging injuries. … But that’s what he can do on a regular basis and so he came around real nice for us and was kind of everything we needed in those moments for sure.”
Still, Olmstead expects more out of his team than it showed in sets one and two.
“The first two sets, they were beating us … other than the serving,” Olmstead said. “We had guys bumping into each other on overpasses when one guy’s just got to go hit it. And then all of a sudden we’re netting … You just (need to) take a deep breath and let the game come to you.”
BYU took it to Long Island in the third set, leading from wire to wire and scoring 11 of the initial 14 points, with the Sharks’ only points coming from Cougar service errors over that span.
Long Island would fight back, but BYU remained out front by no less than four points the rest of the way.
Moving forward, the Cougars hope they can play more like they did in the final set. BYU and Long Island will meet at Smith Fieldhouse Saturday evening for a second go-round beginning at 7 p.m. That match will conclude the non-conference portion of the Cougars’ schedule.