PROVO, Utah - Playing with increased emotion and a sense of purpose, the second-ranked Warrior volleyball team willed its way to a four-game win over fourth-ranked BYU before an NCAA season-high 11,513 fans at the Marriott Center, 23-30, 30-26, 30-27, 30-24.
With All-American Costas Theocharidis leading the way with a match-high 24 kills in 55 attempts, the Warriors seemed to return to what they do best, battling hard with their emotional brand of volleyball.
Warrior coach Mike Wilton and his coaching staff made a few lineup changes going into the match, and the "Men of War" did the rest, rallying around the return of captain Eyal Zimet as the starter at opposite, and the insertion of Brian Nordberg and Jake Muise into the starting rotation to emerge with the win in what presented their biggest test of the year.
Zimet, who had been moved to the starting libero position last week, displayed uncharacteristic emotion in leading the Warriors to victory, contributing five kills, a season-high five blocks and a service ace. Nordberg brought his fiery brand of play to the court tonight and injected the Warriors with an abundance of energy and hustle. Nordberg also recorded five kills, adding a match-high six blocks and a pair of aces.
Muise, a junior from Nova Scotia, Canada, enjoyed what was by far his best match as a Warriors, flying all over the court of the Marriott Center while posting a career-high and match-high 13 defensive digs.
BYU picked-up where it left off in their straight set sweep of Hawaii the previous night, riding a series of multi-point runs to capture game one. The Warriors battled back early in the opening set, drawing even with the Cougars at 5-3 after watching the hosts stake an early 5-2 advantage. Theocharidis sparked the Warriors to a sizeable run of their own, stringing a kill, a service ace, and another tough jump serve which resulted in an errant pass from on the Cougars' side of the net to give Hawaii the 11-10 lead.
With the momentum slipping away the Cougars put together a four-point rally to take a 15-11 lead at the media timeout. After exchanging side outs with BYU for a bit, Hawaii called a timeout trailing 19-13. The Cougars seemed to continue to possess the momentum from the series opener, out hitting Hawaii, .368-to-.000 at that juncture. Senior Nordberg, making his first start of the season, ignited a three-point rally late in the game to force the Cougars into a timeout. The 6-foot-5 middle from Milwaukee, Wisc. recorded a kill and then assumed serving duties as BYU committed consecutive attack errors to pull to 29-23. A Cougar rollshot out of the timeout gave BYU the game, 30-23.
Theocharidis received the lion's share of the sets in the first game, producing a team-best five kills in nine attempts.
Game two saw the Warriors get their attack on track to the tune of a .391 team attack percentage, thanks largely to the efforts of setter Kimo Tuyay and All-American Theocharidis. With the Warriors heading down the home stretch, Tuyay began to seek-out Theocharidis, who recorded four of his seven kills in game two over Hawaii's final 11 points. Tuyay got-in on a pair of double-blocks and put-down game point with a dump shot. Theocharidis recorded a game-high seven kills with no errors in 11 attempts for a .636 attack percentage.
A determined Warrior squad would not be denied with another late lead after watching three late leads dissipate in last night's straight set loss. The middle of the game saw the two teams exchange miscues, with a total of six combined errors accounting for seven of the game's points as Hawaii enjoyed an 18-15 lead. Once Hawaii reached the 20-point plateau, they exchanged points with BYU until they stretched their advantage from 20-17 to 29-24, setting the stage for Tuyay's kill into the open court.
With momentum in hand, the Warriors stormed out of the gates in game three, racing to a 6-0 lead before BYU coach Tom Peterson called a timeout. A turn and rip kill by Delano Thomas on Hawaii's second contact after a BYU kill attempt and a series of Warrior kills and BYU errors helped the "Men of War" build their pad.
But BYU remained persistent, putting forth a number of two and three point runs to finally pull even with Hawaii at 26-26. The Warriors maintained a commanding advantage at the 18-11 mark and as late as the 21-15 point before BYU made good on its comeback attempt. But as he did in game two, Tuyay again looked to Theocharidis, who put-down kills to register four of Hawaii's final eight points. Fellow senior Eyal Zimet came-up large down the stretch, ripping a kill and putting-up a block solo to put his team up, 28-26. Another Theocharidis kill and a BYU service error moved the contest to game four with Hawaii leading, 2-1.
Hawaii and BYU engaged in an intense game three, with the Warriors holding-off the Cougars for the 30-24 victory and the match. The play that seemed to epitomize the match happened with the Warriors leading 16-12. A Warrior shank on a pass attempt sent Zimet racing around the down official and in front of the BYU bench, where the two-time All-MPSF selection kicked the ball to Hawaii's side of the court for Muise to bump back over to BYU. Following a BYU kill attempt, Hawaii regained their composure as Tuyay set Zimet, who terminated the play with one of his five kills. From that point the Cougars seemed to wilt, as the Warriors finished strong.
Warrior Volleyball: Hawaii downs BYU in four
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