This was big for us. We knew (UCLA) would be good coming in and we had just come off a weekend where we figured some things out. —BYU coach Chris McGown
PROVO — The men's college volleyball season is in its early stages, but if BYU's performance against No. 4-ranked UCLA this weekend is any indication, the No. 7-ranked Cougars should be competing at a high level yet again throughout 2015.
The Cougars dominated the Bruins in straight sets Friday (25-11, 25-17, 25-17) and followed up that impressive home debut by taking it to the Bruins again Saturday, winning the match in four sets (17-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-15).
“This was big for us,” said BYU coach Chris McGown of his team’s weekend work. “We knew (UCLA) would be good coming in and we had just come off a weekend where we figured some things out.”
One of the things McGown likely figured out in last weekend’s road trip, where BYU followed up a loss to No. 2 Loyola Chicago with a win against No. 9 Lewis, was his team has some very good depth.
That depth was most prevalent at the outside hitter position, where sophomores Kiril Meretev and Jake Langlois played tall along with senior Phil Fuchs. Langlois led the way for the Cougars in kills Saturday with 14 while Fuchs added 12.
“We have six outsides that we feel comfortable (with),” McGown said. “I feel we can put any of those guys in the match and they’ll play great. I thought (Fuchs) played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play in a big environment.”
Other big contributions came from opposite Tim Dobbert, who had 13 kills, and middle blocker Michael Hatch, who finished with a career-high eight kills.
The Cougars got off to a slow start in the first set Saturday and quickly fell behind 10-4 to the rejuvenated Bruins. The deficit steadily extended with the BYU offense unable to obtain much of a rhythm, evidenced by a .074 hitting percentage.
“I don’t think we were ready to compete at the level we needed to,” McGown said. “And then they were just better, for sure. They served a lot better and we didn’t take good swings.”
Things proved much more competitive in the second set, with neither team enjoying more than a three-point lead throughout. The Cougars upped their hitting percentage to a respectable .267 percent as sophomore Jake Langlois finished things out with a kill that ricocheted off a Bruin defender to take the set 26-24 and tie things up one set apiece.
BYU hit its stride in the third set after incurring an early 5-1 deficit. After McGown called a timeout his team responded to chip away at UCLA’s lead until eventually taking the lead at 13-12 and then finishing out the set with an 8-2 run to take it 25-20 and go up 2-1 in the match. Again it was Langlois ending it with another well-placed kill.
“There’s a lot of pressure in those moments,” Langlois said of both his opportunities to end two closely contested sets. “But that’s why we practice and fortunately I was able to step up and help beat the No. 4 team in the country.”
The fourth and final set was all BYU. After jumping out to a 14-5 lead the Cougars cruised to a comfortable 25-15 set win that saw them combine for a .519 percentage to follow up a .542 percentage in the third.
“I thought we kind of got in a groove passing,” McGown said. “I think we figured out offensively what we needed to do and I think our setting got a little more better ... but it all started with our passing.”
BYU improves to 3-1 on the season, and 2-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, with the win and will next travel to take on UC Santa Barbara.
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