PROVO, Utah – Determined not to lose a match at home, the No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team beat UC Santa Barbara 3-2 (25-17, 22-25, 21-25, 25-18, 15-13) Friday at the Smith Fieldhouse.
The victory marked BYU’s (17-4, 17-2 MPSF) 22nd straight win at home.
“I thought they (UCSB) played great, but I thought we outplayed them in a lot of areas,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “The blocks came alive for a little while and got us off track. But for the guys to regroup and play well the rest of the game, I was really impressed with our team.”
Taylor Sander tied his season-high kills mark with 27 and also had eight block, tying his career high in total blocks and setting a new career high in block assists. Sander was aided by Matt Underwood's 11 kills on a career-high .625 clip. Michael Hatch led the Cougars with nine blocks to tie his career high, and Tyler Heap had a career-high 56 assists.
UCSB (14-7, 13-7 MPSF) attempted to match each of BYU’s points, but the Cougars maintained at least a three-point lead through the first set. The Gauchos did most of the damage themselves with multiple service and hitting errors, extending BYU’s lead to 15-8. Attempting to keep their lead and win the first set, the Cougars stayed strong at the net with strong blocks and even stronger kills. Sander was perfect in kills during the set, slamming seven in seven attempts.
BYU got behind in the second set, committing multiple attack errors and giving UCSB four of its first five points. Tied at 11 points, Sander and Hatch helped push the Cougars over the Gauchos with combined kills, but they weren’t able to hold onto the lead. UCSB had back-to-back blocks and a hitting error to put the Gauchos up again 22-17. The Cougars battled in the final points of the game but came up short and lost by three points, their first set loss at home since January.
The Cougars got off to another rough start, taking their first timeout after getting behind 5-1 just minutes into the third set. BYU and UCSB played point-for-point the entire set, with the Cougars always trailing by just a few points until the 21-25 loss.
Trying not to make the same mistake a second time, the Cougars jumped ahead of the Gauchos 2-1 to begin the fourth set. The Cougars made their biggest lead of the set so far, forcing a UCSB timeout after a four-point run with a block by Heap to lead 17-13.
Not giving up, BYU extended its lead to 20-14 with a kill apiece from Underwood and Sander, and a Devin Young service ace. Underwood and Sander came up clutch with the last kills of the game to end it 25-18. Underwood led the set in kills with six.
BYU led in the fifth set, pulling away 3-0 right out of the gate. UCSB worked to earn its points back, tying the Cougars at 6. Sander and Josue Rivera kills pushed the Cougars up 9-7. Sander and Young came up strong with two kills and a block to push the Cougars up 12-9. Just a point away from the BYU victory, UCSB served the winning volley for another Underwood kill, his 11th of the game.
BYU faces UCLA Saturday at home at 8 p.m. MDT in pursuit of clinching the No. 1 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. Please note that the time is different than normal due to broadcast schedule.