SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Despite a big third-set comeback, No. 13 BYU men’s volleyball fell to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara 3-1 Saturday night on the road. The Cougars are now 5-7 this season and after falling to UCSB Friday night as well, have now lost five straight matches.
BYU recorded 59 kills against UCSB, hitting on a .350 hitting percentage, much improved from the previous night. The Cougars also tallied 40 digs, seven blocks and four aces. BYU senior Davide Gardini finished the match with a team-high 25 kills, hitting a .568 clip, with three digs, two blocks and two aces. Two other Cougars finished with double-digit kills — freshman Miks Ramanis ended the match with 15 kills five digs, two blocks and once ace, and senior Alex Ah Sue tallied 12 kills, eight digs, three blocks and one ace.
The Gauchos started off strong, gaining a 2-0 lead after recording their first ace of the night on their second point. BYU kept close throughout the set, as a service ace from Ah Sue and a kill from Ramanis eventually brought the score to 14-14.
BYU did not relent as the Cougars exchanged points back and forth. UCSB had back-to-back kills from Donavan Todorov and Ryan Wilcox, putting the Gauchos up 18-16.
The Cougars dropped the first set 25-22 as UCSB tallied two kills and BYU had an attack error to end the set.
BYU came out fighting in the second set, taking a 6-5 lead after a kill from Ramanis. The Cougars and Gauchos continued to play a close set as they exchanged points. BYU started gaining momentum after going on a three-point run with a kill from senior Branden Oberender, an ace from Ramanis and a solo block from Gardini, making the score 10-7 and forcing a UCSB timeout.
UCSB did not relent, shaving away the lead and tying it back up at 11-11. BYU kept pushing, extending its lead and going on another run.
The Gauchos went on a 5-2 run with two kills from Dayne Chalmers and a service error from Gavin Julien tying the set back up 24-24. BYU and UCSB pushed the match into extra points before a service error from Oberender and a block from Nick Amoruso and Dain Johnson led to the Gauchos taking set two 28-26.
UCSB started strong again, taking an early 2-0 lead with kills from Amoruso and Wilcox. BYU did not sit idly as kills from Ramanis and Gardini brought the score back within one at 7-6. The Gauchos cushioned their lead, going on a 4-1 run, with two attacking errors from Gardini and a kill Chalmers forcing a BYU timeout.
UCSB extended its lead by five, as service and attacking errors from BYU widened the gap. The Gauchos took a 20-15 lead with a kill from Amoruso. The Cougars started to close the gap with three service errors from UCSB and an ace from Gardini.
BYU brought the set back within one at 23-22, with kills from Ah Sue and Gardini, forcing UCSB to use a timeout. The Cougars forced extra points, with a kill from Oberender tying it up at 24-24. BYU took set three 28-26 with back-to-back kills from Gardini and Julien. The Cougars completed the big-time comeback on a 13-6 run.
The Gauchos recorded their fifth ace and Wilcox’s second of the match with consecutive kills from Chalmers to put UCSB ahead 7-4. BYU and UCSB continued to exchange points as the Cougars kept the deficit narrow. Gardini recorded BYU’s 50th kill of the night as he hit four straight leading to a tie set at 12-12.
The Cougars and Gauchos continued to battle, going point-for-point, with Todorov accounting for three straight kills for UCSB and Ramanis tallying two straight for BYU, tying the game up once again at 17-17.
BYU called a timeout after consecutive errors put the team behind 22-21. Coming out of the timeout the Cougars pulled ahead with an attack error from Wilcox and Gardini whipping out another ace.
UCSB pushed the set into extra points yet again and scored three straight points to win the final set 26-24 and win the match.
BYU is back home next week to take on Grand Canyon University on Feb. 25 and 26 in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. MST. The match will air on BYUtv and the BYUtv app.