PROVO — It’s not so much how you start a match, but how you finish. The BYU men’s volleyball team proved as much with a thrilling five-set win over UCLA in the MPSF semifinals (23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 26-24, 15-10) Thursday night.
The Cougars scored the final five points of the fifth-set tiebreaker and ended the match with Devin Young and Ben Patch combining for a block to send the Smith Fieldhouse crowd of 3,382 into a frenzy and the Cougars to the MPSF finals.
“It was a phenomenal match,” said BYU coach Chris McGown. “Both teams played at a high level and it was a great win for us.”
Josue Rivera led the team in kills with 19, while freshman sensation Patch added 17. Young led the team with 10 blocks — none bigger than his very last one of the night.
“I don’t think anyone should have gotten that block,” Patch said. “Devin works so hard in practice and in those moments I’d put him up there with anybody. It felt awesome.”
UCLA was led by Quiroga Gonzalo, who finished with a game-high 22 kills.
The match was tight from the outset, but UCLA stepped up when it mattered most during the first two sets, scoring the final two points to close out the first before putting together a 4-1 run to close out the second.
The Bruins put together a .406 hitting percentage in the first set and upped it to .630 in the second.
“UCLA came out and played a bit differently than we thought they would,” McGown said. “They’re obviously a great team and they really played well in those first two sets and really throughout the match.”
Down 2-0 at the half wasn't a familiar position for the No. 1-ranked Cougars, but they didn’t panic and simply got back to just playing volleyball, according to McGown, who didn't need to say any magic words to his players.
The Cougars got off to an early 5-1 lead in the third set and cruised to a relatively easy 25-18 win.
UCLA turned the tables in the fourth, however — outscoring BYU 7-1 early in the set. From there the Cougars went on a 9-2 run to tie it up at 10-all and — maybe most importantly — got the home crowd back into the game.
The rest of the set went back and forth until Patch ended things with a well-placed kill to give his team the fourth set 26-24 and send the match into a fifth-set tiebreaker.
The final set was tight, with no team enjoying more than a two-point lead before BYU went on a 5-0 lead to close out the match.
McGown credited his team for stepping up as a whole and the typically raucous Smith Fieldhouse crowd for the win.
With the victory, BYU advances to the MPSF finals against Long Beach State Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT.