No. 8 BYU played its second match of the BYU Invite on Friday, falling in four sets (25-19, 23-25, 23-25, 22-25) to McKendree at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"Congrats to McKendree on coming in here and playing a tough match," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "There are some things that we have to address and fix, but the positive from tonight was being able to give other players some opportunities and reps that we feel they needed and will be valuable for them."
Alex Ah Sue led the Cougars with 23 kills, tying Gabi Garcia Fernandez for the most in a first start for a freshman at BYU. Junior Zach Eschenberg followed with career highs of 12 kills and nine digs. Storm Fa'agata-Tufuga and Braden Oberender both had career highs of five blocks in the match.
After back-to-back points by the Cougars (12-7, 6-3 MPSF) and the Bearcats (10-9, 6-4 MIVA) to start the first set, BYU found itself up 11-7 after three-straight kills by Fa'agata-Tufuga, Ah Sue and Brody Earnest. BYU stayed on top with a seven-point advantage, 17-10, on another kill from Ah Sue. A service error on the Cougars and two consecutive points by McKendree brought it close at 20-17, but two kills by Oberender close out the set, 25-19 for the Cougars.
The Bearcats took a quick 3-0 lead in the second set. The Cougars pushed back and were able to tie the game at 8 after back-to-back aces by Eschenberg. The teams traded points until an error on McKendree brought BYU's first advantage, 11-10. Two Ah Sue kills and another error on the Bearcats gave the Cougars more breathing room at 14-11, forcing a McKendree timeout. BYU scored three consecutive points out of the timeout to go up 19-13, but were immediately followed by a 4-0 run by McKendree to cut the deficit to 19-17. The set was then tied at 23 before the Bearcats snatched the set, 25-23.
The teams stayed close in the third set, trading points and matching each other at 14. A BYU error and a McKendree kill brought the Bearcats up, 16-14, and called for BYU to take a timeout. A kill by Ah Sue gave the Cougars a short 16-15 advantage before McKendree came back and tied the set again. Back-and-forth points led the teams to tie at 21, but McKendree went on to take set three, 25-23.
Set four started tight, but kills by Ah Sue and Eschenberg and an error on the Bearcats rewarded BYU with a 9-6 advantage. The Cougars held the lead until McKendree put up a seven-point run to go up 18-14. A kill by Ah Sue, followed by two service aces and a kill by Miki Jauhiainen helped BYU fight back, although still down 21-20. The Bearcats went on to claim the final set 25-22.
BYU will return to the Smith Fieldhouse tomorrow night at 7 p.m. MST to face No. 2 Hawaii for Senior Night and the conclusion to the BYU Invite. The match will be streamed live on BYUtv and live stats can be found on the schedule page.