PROVO, Utah -- In the first round of the 2011 MPSF tournament, the No. 2 seed BYU Cougars fell at home by seventh-seeded UC Santa Barbara in four sets (21-25, 25-23, 24-26, 22-25) Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Junior Robb Stowell led BYU with 19 kills in the match. MPSF Freshman of the Year Taylor Sander contributed with 15 kills and five digs while the Cougars recorded 14 blocks as a team compared to UCSB's nine.
“We struggled to find a rhythm tonight,” interim head coach Rob Nielson said. “Give credit to UCSB though. They played like they had nothing to lose and put together a really nice match.”
Set one really established the competitive tone as both teams battled back and forth throughout. The Cougars took an early 7-3 lead behind an ace from Sander and maintained a lead until UCSB tied the score at 14.
UCSB expanded their lead to five and led 20-15 before BYU stormed back to tie the score at 20. The Cougars didn't have the momentum, however, to continue the rally and would lose the set 25-21.
BYU bounced back in set two behind a set-leading five kills from Stowell. The Cougars built up a 16-9 lead early before the Gauchos came back to tie it at 21. BYU outhit UCSB .250 to .121 in the set and finished strong to take the 25-23 win.
Any momentum built by the Cougars in set two faded quickly as UCSB jumped out to a 12-7 lead in set three. BYU came back and took their first lead in the set at 17-16 before falling 26-24. The Gauchos finished the set with a .300 hitting percentage to the Cougars .194. Stowell and Sander were the only Cougars to record kills in the set, finishing with seven and six, respectively.
In a tight fourth set the two teams battled back and forth until UCSB took control of the lead for good at 15-14. Alex DePron led the Cougars in kills with five while Sander and Stowell both contributed four in the 25-22 set loss.