Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tavana sets BYU record, Cougar men's volleyball sweeps series opener against Pacific

The BYU men’s volleyball team went through a rough stretch in January and February when All-American sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander was sidelined with a hand injury.

With the season moving into March and Sander back on the floor, the Cougars appear to be back on track — as Pacific found out Friday evening at the Smith Fieldhouse.

BYU edged the visiting Tigers in the first and third games, and hammered them in Game 2 to earn the 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-12, 25-18) in the first of the two-match series.

Even with the victory, Cougar head coach Chris McGown thinks his team is still improving.

“I don’t think we are there yet,” McGown said. “We tell the team that we can get better every single day. There are glimpses when we are very impressive.”

The highlight of the evening came early in the third set when BYU senior middle blocker Futi Tavana tallied the 539th block of his impressive career, moving him past Russell Holmes and into first place in the Cougar record books during the rally-scoring era.

“I had no idea I was getting close,” Tavana said. “When I switched to this position as a freshman, I didn’t think I would be successful.”

Tavana had his own cheering section complete with a sign that tallied his progress as he approached, tied, then passed the old mark of 538 blocks.

“Most of them were from my (LDS) ward,” Tavana explained. “It was fun to have them here. It’s a good thing it happened at the game today. It felt like I was back at home (in Samoa) because there it’s always loud and rowdy.”

McGown said it was great to see the senior set the all-time mark.

“He (Tavana) worked really hard to come back from an injury this fall and to have him out here playing great is just wonderful for us,” the coach explained. “He’s a wonderful presence on our team.”

Tavana finished the game with six blocks, pushing the BYU record to 541 career blocks and counting. He left the match late in the third game to a nice ovation from the crowd.

The match itself proved to be a fairly one-sided contest, although the Cougars had to overcome some early mistakes to get the two-point win in Game 1.

“It was also nice to play with composure to get through our mistakes and win those sets,” McGown said. “Ultimately we would like to come right out of the gates, play great and we need to find ways to do that.”

The rest of the match belonged to the home team as BYU won the next two frames decisively.

The Cougars hit .550 and .346 in the last two games on their way to the victory. Sander led the attack with 11 kills and five digs, while Tavana added four kills and the six blocks.

McGown said he likes the way his team is coming together at this point in the year.

“I think we’re at about 85 percent of where we could be,” he explained. “We’re making good use of our practices and guys are working on these little things that we’ve noticed that can make the team better.”

BYU will finish the two-game series with Pacific Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse.

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