Seniors Lead No. 1 BYU past No. 6 CSUN


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Provo, Utah - Now 9-0 on the season and 4-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, the No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team beat No. 6 Cal State Northridge (6-4, 4-3) 3-2 Saturday in the Smith Fielhouse, 30-20, 30-24, 25-30, 34-36, in the team's second five-game match of the season.

Senior opposite Jonathan Charette led all hitters with 23 kills on a .400 hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Ivan Perez earned his fifth 20+ kill outing on the season with a total of 21. Senior middle blocker Russell Holmes also became the second Cougar to record a double-double on the season with 11 kills and 10 blocks.

"It was a couple of tough wins this weekend, but in the MPSF every win is tough," BYU head coach Shawn Patchell said. "Northridge always plays us tough, and they didn't let up tonight. We have five seniors, though, that bring it every day in practice and lead this team."

The Cougars picked up in the first game of Saturday's match where they left off in the fourth game of Friday's. They struggled somewhat from the service line, but still managed to earn a four-point advantage at 15-11 with senior Brain Congelliere setting the team to a .462 hitting percentage.

The lead jumped to seven-points, 21-14, with tough blocking at the net and big swings from Ivan Perez and Charette. The team rolled from there to 10-point spread at 25-15 and eventually the match at 30-20 on solid blocking, passing, and hitting all around.

The second game was more of the same. The Matadors were on their heels from the onset and the Cougar rhythm was steady. Holmes' presence at the net loomed large on offense and defense. He recorded a block assist and three early kills that helped to boost the Cougar lead to 14-7. He finished the second game hitting a perfect five for five.

CSUN began substituting players in an effort to spark its offense while BYU was able to bring in less experienced players in an effort to alter that "less experienced" status. Sophomore outside hitter Mat Taylor saw time in the latter half of the second game as did freshman middle blocker Nick Valencia. The Cougars still rolled to a 30-23 win in the second game that ended on a Charette/Holmes block.

The Matadors managed to spark an offensive fire at the break and scored five of the first six points in the third game, the biggest lead of the night in any game for their team. BYU responded to the threat and battled its way back into the game to tie the score at 7-7. The Cougars took their own two-point lead at 11-9, but CSUN would not back down and scored the next five points.

CSUN tightened its grip and widened the gap at 20-16. Hitting errors hurt the Cougars down the stretch and the Matadors took a 25-18 lead. Sophomore Yamil Perez entered the match and BYU started to claw its way back. Despite the increased effort from the Cougars, the matadors would not be swept, and CSUN won the third game 30-25.

With new life and renewed energy after winning the third game, CSUN jumped on top early in the fourth game. CSUN tightened its blocking and recorded two blocks to maintain its lead. The Cougar blockers stuffed a number of balls of their own that landed just outside the white stripe.

Neither team was able to gain more ground against the other until a controversial call lit a fire in the crowd. A sideout ensued and was followed by two blocks from Holmes and Andrew Stewart brought BYU back to within one at 18-19. Not to be outdone, CSUN scored the next four points and regained its five-point lead. The Cougars pulled back to within two, however, on yet another Holmes/Congelliere block. The throng erupted again after a Stewart kill from the back row to pull BYU back with one at 22-23.

A CSUN hitting error tied the fourth game at 24-24. The teams traded sideouts to 26-26, but Ivan Perez gave BYU its first lead of the fourth game at 27-26 on a service ace down the outside line of the court. The Fieldhouse crowd grew louder. The score knotted at 29, but CSUN regained the advantage and game point at 30-29 on a Cougar hitting error. Another block tipped the scales back in BYU's direction at 31-30. The Cougars were unable to hold on, though, and the Matadors pulled out a 36-34 win to force a fifth and final game.

BYU forged ahead undaunted in the fifth game and broken open a 6-2 lead on its 15th team block of the match. The Cougars led 8-5 when the teams switched sides, and another service ace from Ivan Perez gave the team a 9-5 lead.

The Cougars never allowed CSUN an opportunity in the fifth game. They maintained least a four-point lead and fittingly closed the match on Holmes' 10th block of the match.

BYU will have a week off before returning to action Feb. 15-16 for two matches in Irvine, Calif., against the reigning NCAA Champions of UC Irvine. The next Cougar home match will be against Stanford Feb. 22-23.

Article courtesy of BYU athletis.

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