(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – In a thrilling five-set match the No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team defeated No. 15 University of Santa Barbara 3-2 (21-25, 25-18, 25-13, 25-27, 15-9) in the Smith Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
The Cougars dropped set one for just the second time this season, won the next two and then went down again in the fourth, forcing a fifth set.
The score was tied 8-8 in the fifth before BYU (7-2, 6-1 MPSF) went on a 6-0 run to put it out of reach for the Gauchos (5-8, 3-6 MPSF).
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The Cougars hit at a .369 clip for the match but notched a .556 percent in the fifth set to connect when it counted. Taylor Sander led BYU with 20 kills and Ben Patch and Josue Rivera added 19 and 14 kills, respectively.
"We came out a little flat at first, we weren't playing poorly we just didn't get up to game speed," head coach Chris McGown said. "UCSB came out and played really well. When I look at the numbers overall, I think we played really really well, we had some hiccups in the first and fourth but overall we played a really nice match."
BYU and the Gauchos started off the first set going back and forth before the Cougars got some separation with a 13-10 lead. UCSB tied it up at 15-all and came back to take a 22-18 lead on a late 4-0 run and had enough to hold on for a 25-21 win in set one.
The Gauchos took an early lead in set two but BYU raced back to take an 8-6 lead and push it to 15-10 later on. The Cougars cruised form then on and an ace from Devin Young put UCSB away 25-18 in the second set. After hitting just .188 percent in the first set BYU improved to .455 in the second.
In the third set the Cougars came out hot, jumping out to a 7-2 advantage. BYU controlled the set, rallying for a 17-10 lead. BYU pushed the lead to double-digits on a soft floating ace just inside the line from Nick Valencia to make it 22-12.
A big block stopped the Gauchos’ last effort in a dominating set-three 25-13 win for the Cougars. Rivera led the set with five kills while Patch and Sander added three apiece.
UCSB responded with a 7-5 lead to start the fourth set before BYU battled back to a 14-14 tie. The Gauchos took control right back with a 3-0 run but BYU responded again with a 4-1 answer to tie the score at 18-18. The set went down to the wire, both teams going point-for-point.
Down 24-23, another soft ace from Valencia tied it up. UCSB was able to outlast the Cougars, winning the set 27-25 to force a fifth set.
Sander helped BYU to a 5-3 lead on two early kills in the fifth. The Gauchos came back to tie it two more times but the Cougars continued to push back. Patch grabbed kills No. 18 and 19 followed by a UCSB attack error that gave BYU the separation it needed with a 12-8 lead.
The Cougars weren’t done, continuing with the run, making it 6-0 in all to make it 14-8. The Gauchos were too far behind as BYU went on to take the set 15-9 and the match 3-2.
Up next, the Cougars host No. 6 UCLA on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse.