PROVO — When the BYU men’s volleyball team asserts its physicality at the net there are few teams nationally that can withstand it. Case in point? The Cougars’ straight-set sweep (25-20, 25-16, 26-24) over visiting UC Santa Barbara on Friday night at Smith Fieldhouse.
With few hiccups along the way, BYU imposed its overwhelming physical play at the net early and often against the Gauchos to earn its third consecutive straight-set victory.
Ben Patch led the way with 16 kills, tops on either side, while Jake Langlois added 13 and Brendan Sander another seven. For the match the Cougars swung at a .330 percentage to UCSB’s .165.
“I thought we were really physical (when) attacking and our guys made really good decisions,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead.
That physical attack seemed to come at a crescendo early in the second set.
With BYU holding a 5-4 lead, a point scored by the Cougars, as called by the chair umpire, was overturned in favor of the Gauchos by the line judge. BYU players and Olmstead argued the call but to no avail. BYU's 6-4 lead suddenly became a 5-5 tie.
But instead of pouting and dwelling on the call, the Cougars got going in earnest to run away with the set by a convincing 25-16 margin.
“They got a little fired up,” Olmstead said of his team’s response to the questionable call. “We responded really well and went on a run right there.”
About the only downside during Friday’s win for the Cougars came as they were working to close the match out.
Up 24-20 in that third set, the Gauchos fended off four consecutive match-point opportunities for the Cougars to tie the score at 24-24. BYU's players managed to gather themselves at that point and top off the match with two consecutive points. However, the Cougars' inability to knock out the Gauchos when they had them on the ropes left Olmstead a bit perturbed.
“I told the guys that they have to be a lot more confident there at the end,” Olmstead said. “It started, I thought, with that missed serve. I wasn’t very pleased with that missed serve when it’s match point. When you got a team figuring out how to win here in Provo, and you got a good lead, we need to put the pressure on them there.”
The match-winning point was scored off a Langlois kill in what was a fitting end to a great effort by the sophomore opposite on Friday.
“He had good energy. He was jumping hard and he ... a couple of times he literally went around and over that block,” Olmstead said of Langlois. “He had some really big swings for us at some crucial times.”
With the win BYU improves to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. The Cougars will square off against the Gauchos again on Saturday before embarking on a rare road trip to New Jersey where they’ll take on Princeton and New Jersey Institute of Technology on consecutive nights.