BYU downs McKendree in season-opening sweep
PROVO, Utah — BYU men’s volleyball opened the 2023 season with a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 25-21, 25-20) of the McKendree Bearcats at the Smith Fieldhouse, Friday.
“There was a lot for the guys to learn and grow from tonight,” said BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead. “We still need to play with a little more urgency, be more intentional with our first contact off blocks but we’ve been training better, we’ve been working better and I saw some really encouraging signs tonight.”
BYU outhit McKendree .286 to .158 as they registered 29 kills on the night. Miks Ramanis and Kupono Browne led the way for the Cougars with 10 and nine kills respectively on a combined .342 clip. Browne also recorded three consecutive service aces, the second most in a game for the junior out of Hawai’i.
Ramanis recorded double-digit kills for the 13th time in his young career while hitting .293 on the night. The Walnut Creek, California Native also added six digs, a block and a service ace to his stat line.
Grand Canyon transfer Heath Hughes dished out 26 assists in his BYU debut. The 6-7 senior also carded two blocks, a kill and a dig in the win.
The Cougars jumped out to a 7-3 lead in set one with a kill from Browne, a service ace from Ramanis and two McKendree hitting errors. Back-to-back kills from Luke Benson and Ramanis extended the Cougar lead to 10-4 before the Bearcats earned five of the next seven points to draw within three.
Despite the McKendree run, Browne recorded three-straight service aces to retake a six-point lead for the Cougars, 19-13. The Bearcats rattled off four of the next five points to again cut the deficit to three, 20-17 before the Cougars closed set one on a 4-2 run to take the first set 25-20.
With the Cougars trailing 6-5, Browne and Hughes recorded consecutive kills to take a 7-6 lead. Ramanis would extend the lead to 10-8 for BYU before the Bearcats scored three-straight to retake a 12-11 advantage.
A kill from Benson followed by a Julien solo block gave the Cougars a 15-13 lead and led to a McKendree timeout. Benson the sophomore would finish with six kills, five digs and four blocks in only his second start for the Cougars. BYU scored four of the next five points out of the timeout to take a 19-15 lead late in set two.
After the Bearcats drew within two, 21-19, the Cougars rattled off three of the next four points courtesy of two kills and a service ace from Benson to earn set point. A service error from McKendree gave BYU a 25-21 victory in set two and a 2-0 set lead.
The Cougars took an early 6-2 lead with three Ramanis kills, a kill from Teon Taylor and a block by Benson and Julien before the Bearcats roared back, winning five of the next six points to knot the game at seven.
BYU opened a 14-1 lead with back-to-back-to-back kills from Browne, Taylor and Benson and extended the lead to 20-15 two kills and two blocks. The Cougars closed out set three 25-20 to earn their first 3-0 sweep since March 11, 2022.
BYU will return to the court tomorrow evening as they take on the No. 14 Lewis Flyers at 7 p.m. MST. The match will be televised on BYUtv and streamed on the BYUtv app.
BYU to host Liberty and McKendree in opening weekend of 2023 season
PROVO, Utah — BYU hosts three teams to begin the 2023 campaign, including Lewis University, McKendree University and the University of California, Irvine. Since it is not a true round-robin tournament, BYU will only face two out of three teams (McKendree and Lewis).
The Cougars are a combined 21-4 against McKendree and Lewis, including 19-3 all-time and 10-1 at home against Lewis and 2-1 at home against McKendree.
Since NCAA play began in 1990, BYU is 23-10 in season openers, 24-9 in home openers and 10-3 in home season openers.
The Cougars will be facing McKendree University from Lebanon, Illinois for just the fourth time in program history in their home opener. McKendree is coming off the best season in its program’s nine-year history. The last matchup between the Cougars and the Bearcats took place in 2019 at the Smith Fieldhouse where BYU lost 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 23-25, 22-25). Meanwhile, Lewis is ranked No. 14 in the AVCA’s coaches preseason poll.
BYU has been picked to finish sixth in the MPSF by the conference’s head coaches. The Cougars last MPSF title was in 2021.
The Cougars lost three-time All-American Davide Gardini from last season. In 2023, BYU features a young team, with nearly 70% of its roster filled with lower-classmen (freshmen or sophomores).
BYU keeps four of its starters in Mitchel Worthington, Kupono Browne, Gavin Julien and Miks Ramanis. Worthington enters the 2023 season in his fifth year as a Cougar due to COVID-19 eligibility. In the 2022 season, Coach Olmstead had 16 different starting lineup combinations.
BYU has six newcomers this season, including five freshmen. Five are true freshman and the other is senior setter Heath Hughes who transferred from Grand Canyon University.
BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead is beginning his eighth season leading the men’s volleyball team. With a 133-50 (.726) overall record, he has the third highest Division I men’s volleyball win-loss% out of all active D-1 head coaches. The four-time MPSF Coach of the Year, Olmstead added a new staff member to his squad in 2023. Otavio Souza will serve as a new men’s volleyball assistant coach who comes with experience from coaching at Cal, Saint Mary’s and Missouri State. Olmstead helped BYU to 3-straight NCAA Final Four appearances for the first time in program history (2016-2018).