No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball finished its four-match road streak with another loss, falling to No. 10 UCLA, 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-13, 25-20), in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
"It was again a tough night," BYU head coach Chris McGown said. "They served the ball really well, as well as I've seen a team serve all year. We just weren't quite prepared in serve receiving. They got some really strange bounces and had a couple of guys with career nights. And (setter) Tyler Heap going down with a sprained ankle was tough for us, too. I thought we had some momentum going, and they just caught fire serving and that was that."
Josue Rivera led the Cougars (18-8, 18-6 MPSF) with 12 kills on .407 hitting. Taylor Sander, who played in his final regular-season match as a Cougar, collected 11 kills, four aces and seven digs. Setter Robbie Sutton came off the bench for a career-high 26 assists, and Jaylen Reyes had a team-high eight digs.
UCLA finished with 14 aces, while BYU had five.
BYU took a 5-0 run with the help of a pair of Rivera aces to lead 6-2 in the first set. UCLA (18-10, 15-9 MPSF) responded with two aces and two kills, tying the score at 6-6. Bruin kills got UCLA ahead 9-6, but Rivera and Sander chipped in a kill each to tie the score again, this time at 10-10. The Cougars pulled into a 13-11 lead, but the Bruins tied it up at 13 with two kills to continue the back-and-forth play.
With the score at 23-23, a BYU service error gave UCLA the chance at a set victory, and a kill by Bruin Steve O’Dell ended the set 25-23. The teams were tied 17 times during the set.
Sander slammed a back-row kill that put BYU ahead 4-2 to begin the second set. Two errors by UCLA helped the Cougars increase that lead to 6-2. BYU held onto at least a two-point lead until a Bruin ace tied it up at 14. Back-to-back Sander kills and a Sander ace gave the Cougars a 21-18 advantage. UCLA failed a service attempt to put BYU in set-point position at 24-20. A trio of UCLA points threatened BYU’s lead, but Devin Young took care of the 25-23 set with a kill.
Down 12-3 in the third frame, BYU tried to stop a 7-0 scoring streak by the Bruins with a kill by Matt Underwood. The deficit increased to 16-6 on an ace. UCLA took the set 25-13 to lead the match 2-1.
Four BYU points launched the fourth set, but UCLA came back to tie, 6-6. The Bruins took the lead on a Cougar error, but Sutton helped the Cougars out with a kill, a block with Young and an assist on a Sander kill for a 9-7 lead. Despite Sutton’s effort, UCLA skipped ahead on a 4-0 run. As the set wound down, BYU let the Bruins increase their lead to as many as six points. UCLA took the set 25-20.
The Cougars return to the Smith Fieldhouse to host their quarterfinal match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament Saturday. BYU will compete against the No. 8 seed USC.
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"We're certainly fired up to be back in the Fieldhouse," McGown said. "It's been really tough being on the road, so we're going to catch up with some rest this week and try to be great for this weekend."
BYU ties with Pepperdine for the conference regular-season title but will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament due to holding the tiebreaker. This is the Cougars’ second-straight regular-season title after winning the regular season and tournament in 2013.
Rachel Hawks is the men's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.