Seventh-Ranked Cougars Defeat No. 14 UC Santa Barbara in Season Finale
PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team downed UC Santa Barbara three games to one on Saturday, 15-6, 15-7, 14-16, 15-8. The seventh-ranked Cougars end the regular season with an 18-8 record (13-6 conf.) heading into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament in two weeks.
"We played seven games this weekend and played well in six of them," BYU head coach Carl McGown said. "I'm disappointed that we let down a little in game three. They were able to exploit a weakness in our rotation. Game one was a terrific performance for us, though, and Scott Bunker came through as our most valuable player tonight."
UCSB transfer Joaquin Acosta led the Cougars with 22 kills, while Bunker added 21 kills on .545 hitting to go along with four service aces. Santa Barbara native Mike Wall and senior Casey Jennings each had 19 kills, and Matt Olsen posted 15 kills. Defensively, Acosta and senior Chris Pitzak each produced 13 digs and Olsen had a team-high 13 blocks. The Gauchos were paced by Kevin Collins' 24 kills. Sophomore Andy Rivera chalked up 13 digs and Britt Galang had 11.
UCSB jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first game, before Wall answered by hitting two straight kills to tie the game at 5-5. BYU took the lead with a 10-1 run, hitting .424 for the game, compared to the Gauchos' .128. The Cougars won the game on an Olsen kill, 15-6.
BYU's outside hitters gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead in game two, and tough serving kept the score in BYU's favor for the remainder of the game. The Gauchos' Andy Rivera sparked a run to cut into the lead before Bunker served up an ace for the decisive point. Wall, Jennings, Bunker and Acosta each chipped in six kills to lead the Cougars.
Taking an early 8-3 lead in game three, the Cougars appeared to be headed for a three-game sweep of UCSB. The Gauchos capitalized on a series of BYU hitting errors to cut the lead to 10-9, but BYU bounced back to take a 14-10 advantage on an Olsen kill. UCSB fought off three match points and scored six in a row to take the game 16-14 on a BYU lift.
Defense was the difference in game four, as the Cougars dominated play at the net. BYU out-blocked the Gauchos 9-2 in the decisive game, including a pair of Olsen and Acosta blocks that set up game point at 14-8. Acosta then dealt the final blow to his former team with a cross-court kill.
McGown feels good about his team's chances heading into the playoffs. "If we go down there and get adjusted to the altitude, I think we can make some things happen," said McGown. "You saw what happened in the NCAA [men's basketball] tournament. We're the kind of team that can win on any given night."
With the win, the Cougars secured the fifth-seed in the MPSF Tournament and will likely face fourth-seeded UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. BYU dropped both games to the Bruins this season in Los Angeles. The tournament will begin on April 22.