The Knights took down the Titans in the BYU-Idaho Men’s Competitive Volleyball Championship Wednesday.
“I mean, obviously it was a great game, you can tell by the scores,” said Knigths player Keanu Pukahi. “They are pretty tight up until the end. But it does feel pretty sweet.”
This battle of BYU–I Men’s Competitive Volleyball giants took place in front of an energetic crowd of supporters in the Hart Main Gym.
Tale of the Tape
The Titans entered the finals as the #1-ranked team, carrying a perfect 6-0 record. They were coming off a straight-sets victory over the Bruins in the semifinals.
“There is a reason why they are the number one team,” Pukahi said. “They were undefeated up until now. The second that we take a break, they are going to come back and beat us. That happened a couple of times throughout the game. Luckily we just finished it in the end.”
The Knights entered with a 5-1 record as the playoff #2 seed. They took down the Hawks 3-1 in their semifinal tilt.
These two teams squared off in the regular season on Oct. 20 when the Titans took the matchup in straight sets.
The Knights jumped ahead early, 4-0.
The Titans quickly evened it at 4-4.
The rest of the set saw six lead changes and ten ties.
The Knights were one point up, 24-23, and thought that they had won the set until a ball that was called in was reversed and the point was given to the Titans after a conference between the officials.
The Knights once again had set point at 27-26 after Byron Whitehead struck a ball and gave his team the lead.
Whitehead struck again with a spike that found the ground and gave the Knights a 28-26 first-set victory.
The Knights jumped out to an early 4-1 lead before the Titans struck back and took a 10-9 lead.
The Titan’s lead was short-lived as the Knights quickly regained the lead at 11-10.
The set was tied three times, but the Titans carried the lead and took a 25-24 lead after a kill from McKay Anderson. Forcing the Knights to call a timeout.
“It was pretty much the same message,” Pukahi said. ” We needed to stay mentally strong and do not let crap hit the fan. Once crap hits the fan, that is when the points go down.”
The Knights struck back following a timeout after Pukahi connected with a back-row kill to even the score at 25-25.
“The phrase that comes to mind is, ‘good things come to those that swing hard and play aggressive,” Pukahi said. “So, that was my mindset all the time. If we tipped then they might give it back to us. So, just swing hard.”
A ball into the net gave the Knights a set point at 26-25, and then they would take advantage when an attack from Anderson sailed long and gave the Knights a 27-25 lead.
The Knights took the second set 27-25.
The Knights opened the set and jumped to a 6-2 lead.
The Titans quickly punched back with a run of their own, seizing an 8-6 lead.
The set continued tight as the two teams exchanged leads while neither team’s lead exceeded two points.
The Titans had an opportunity to extend that match with a 25-24 lead. However, the Knights fought them off when Braden Bradshaw landed a kill and evened the set at 25-25.
The third set once again needed a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, both teams exchanged unsuccessful opportunities with set points.
“One of our guys, Braden Bradshaw, it is his last season and he just wanted to have a mentally strong mindset,” Pukahi said. “And so, it showed at the end. We were down, we were up, and it showed how mentally strong we could be. I think it was just the fact that Braden brought that energy to us at the end.”
The Knights pushed the Titans to the brink of elimination when Spencer Keller placed a ball in on the Titan’s side and gave them the championship point at 33-32.
Euphoria was given to the Knights when the Titans were unable to return a Knights attack, giving them a 34-32 set victory.
“It was great to finally be done,” Pukahi said. “I mean, it is a bittersweet moment because you win, but then you notice that it is done. And so, I love this game so much and that is the hard part … I did not want it to be over. But, I am just glad that when it was over, we were on the winning side.”
In the end, the Knights picked up a straight sets victory, claiming the BYU–I Men’s Competitive Volleyball Championship and spoiling the Titan’s bid for a perfect season.