(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – A season-high 32 kills from Ben Patch led BYU men’s volleyball to victory in a five-set thriller (25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 24-26, 15-12) against UC Santa Barbara Thursday night at the Smith Fieldhouse in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament.
“Really proud of the guys for playing through a tough stretch and gutting it out in the fifth," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "We knew after winning the first two sets that Santa Barbara wasn't going to make it easy for us. They're a much improved team from the last time they played here. Hats off to them for giving us all we could handle."
Patch tallied a season-high 32 kills on a .480 hitting percentage to go along with three digs and two blocks. Leo Durkin had a career-high 62 assists to go along with his team-high 12 digs for his third double-double of the season. The 12 digs are also tied for his career high. Brenden Sander and Jake Langlois added double-digit kills with 19 and 12, respectively. The Cougars out-blocked the Gauchos 12.5 to 5.5 in the match.
After No. 1 seed BYU (25-3, 19-3 MPSF) took the first two sets, No. 5 seed UC Santa Barbara (20-10, 14-8 MPSF) battled back to force the match to five sets. Kills from Patch scored four of BYU’s first five points in the fifth set, putting the Cougars up 5-3. After a pair of points from the Gauchos, a huge block from Langlois and Jarman put the Cougars back on top 6-5. Durkin served an ace right on the end line to push the lead to 10-7, forcing a Gauchos timeout. A tool from Sander sealed the 15-12 win and the match.
BYU took the lead in the first set after Sander put down an overpass kill for the 4-3 advantage. The Cougars were able to put a 4-0 run together behind a great hustle play to keep the rally alive, extending their lead to 14-9. However, the Gauchos answered back with three unanswered points to force a timeout for the Cougars. Sander came out the break with a strong kill to make it 17-14. From then on, BYU held UC Santa Barbara at bay, going on a 6-1 run to push the lead to 23-16. A back row attack from Langlois won the first set for the Cougars, 25-18.
The second set got started with two-straight points for BYU coming from a kill from Langlois and a block from Price Jarman. The Cougars scored three unanswered points that included a sharp cross kill from Patch to push the score to 9-4. The Gauchos ran off five points in a row to tie the game at 18-all before Sander came flying out of the back row for a kill and repossession of the lead. A monster block from Michael Hatch and Durkin put BYU at set point, 24-20, before UC Santa Barbara scored two in a row, acing the second, to force a timeout from the Cougars. Sander came out of the timeout with a cross-court kill to take the second set 25-22.
In the third set, UC Santa Barbara came out strong, scoring the first five points until missing a serve to make it 5-1. Back-to-back powerful kills from Patch cut into the deficit, 7-4. An overpass kill from Jarman tied the game up for the first time in the third set, 14-14, but the Gauchos scored three consecutive points to force a timeout from the Cougars. UC Santa Barbara got to set point, but kills from Patch and Langlois kept the game going. However, a Cougar error gave the third set to the Gauchos, 25-23.
After a couple of early ties in the fourth set, a kill down the line from Sander after a long rally gave BYU its first lead at 5-4 early on. The teams traded points for a while until UC Santa Barbara strung together three points to take the 12-11 lead. Some communication struggles from the Cougars allowed the Gauchos to score a pair, taking the 16-14 lead. The first ace of the game for BYU from Robbie Sutton tied the game 16-16. Despite battling and trading points until the end, the Gauchos stole another set, winning 26-24 and tying the game at two sets apiece.
BYU will now face UCLA in the MPSF title game Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT at the Smith Fieldhouse. The game will be televised live on BYUtv with live stats available on the BYU schedule page.
No. 2 seed UCLA vs. No. 3 seed Long Beach State
In the early Thursday match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, No. 2 seed UCLA (25-5, 17-5 MPSF) defeated No. 3 seed Long Beach State (24-7, 17-5 MPSF) in straight sets (26-24, 28-26, 25-19) at the Smith Fieldhouse.
In the opening set, the 49ers held an early lead before the Bruins rallied to even the score 15-all. Long Beach State took another lead before UCLA tied the score at 18. The teams remained deadlocked before the Bruins outlasted the 49ers winning by the narrow margin of 26-24.
In the second set, the teams continued to battle with the Bruins eventually establishing a 12-9 lead. The 49ers stayed close and fought back to tie the score at 24. The Bruins rebounded by winning four of the next six points to cap off the set for a 28-26 win.
Ahead 2-0, UCLA was dominant in the third set. The Bruins gained control by jumping out to a 12-3 lead before a 6-2 run by Long Beach State forced a UCLA timeout with the score at 14-9. The Bruins extended the lead to eight, holding a 20-12 advantage, before Long Beach State went on a 6-3 run. UCLA closed out the set, winning 25-19, to clinch the match.