SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Clinching the MPSF regular season title, the No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team topped No. 7 UC Santa Baraba in five sets (20-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-21, 15-13) Friday.
The win extends BYU’s (20-3, 18-2 MPSF) win streak to 12 matches.
“I thought Santa Barbara played really well,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “They’ve got some really good players but we just held our composure. It’s something we’ve learned to do and have become pretty good at. The guys are confident that we can battle through these tough situations even when we aren’t playing well.”
Freshman Ben Patch led the Cougars with 19 kills followed by junior Taylor Sander with 18. Sander added three aces and 11 digs for his third double-double of the season. Senior Ryan Boyce contributed 11 digs and 40 assists while freshman Michael Hatch had a match-high eight blocks.
BYU edged out the Gauchos (14-14, 10-12 MPSF) in blocks 16.5-16.0, but UCSB recorded a .199 attack while the Cougars hit a .187 clip.
After trailing 2-1 in the match, the Cougars fought back and forced a fifth set. In the final set, both teams kept it within one until Sander gave BYU a three-point advantage, 8-5. A pair of UCSB kills tied the set at 9 and a fourth-straight point by the Gauchos gave the home team the lead. A UCSB kill moved the score to 13-11, but the Cougars bounced back to tie the score at 13-13 with an ace from Sander. A second ace by Sander followed by a UCSB attack error completed the comeback and secured the win in the final set for the match victory.
“We can do a nice job trusting in each other and sticking with things we know how to do and ultimately trusting that our good brand of volleyball will prevail,” McGown said.
After a tie at 2 apiece to start the first set, the Gauchos captured a two-point advantage and wouldn’t look back after extending their lead to 13-7. The Cougars answered with a 5-1 run to close the gap to two with kills from Sander and Patch. A UCSB attack error brought the Cougars within one, 16-15, but the Gauchos pulled ahead again by four with a pair of errors from BYU and a kill. Two Gauchos errors moved BYU closer, 22-20, but it wasn’t enough as UCSB closed out the set 25-20.
Set two started with a back-and-forth battle until BYU broke the trend with three straight kills from Sander and Patch for a 7-4 lead. BYU stayed on pace and pulled ahead 15-9 with a kill from Phil Fuchs. In front 20-14, the Cougars gave up a trio of points to shave their lead to three. A kill from Fuchs and a UCSB attack error gave BYU set point and the Cougars wrapped up the set 25-20.
The third set saw another close contest at the start with a string of tie scores until UCSB garnered momentum to take a 9-6 lead. The Gauchos worked their way to a five-point advantage. A kill by Sander dropped UCSB’s lead to 16-14 before the Gauchos pulled ahead, 20-15. The Cougars brought the score to 21-18, but UCSB finished out the set on a 4-0 run for a 25-18 victory.
After an early 3-1 UCSB lead to start the fourth, BYU flipped the score in its favor 5-3 and stayed in front until the Gauchos worked their way back to 9-9. Following the tie, the Cougars rattled off a 4-0 run to regain the lead, 13-9. A Patch kill extended BYU’s margin to five and the Cougars held on for a 19-14 cushion. Back-to-back Patch kills set up BYU with game point and Josue Rivera finalized the 25-21 fourth set win with a kill to force the thrilling fifth set.
Whitney Weekes works in BYU Athletic Communications as the men's volleyball SID and football media relations assistant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.