Cougars split weekend with Gauchos

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It looked as if it was going to be an early Saturday night. Three and done. There would even be time to go see a movie later.

Just as the BYU men’s volleyball team looked unstoppable against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 25, the tide quickly turned. What had been going right for BYU started going exactly right for UCSB, as the Gauchos won 18-25, 19-25, 25-17, 25-19, 15-13.

[media-credit name=”Photo by Whitnie Larson” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Players Josue Rivera, Futi Tavana, and Joe Kauliakamoa block Blaine Nielsen at Fridays Volleyball Match against UC Santa Barbara.
According to head coach Chris McGown, the Cougars did make mistakes, but credit must be given to the Gauchos for their play.

“A lot of credit to Santa Barbara, I thought they kind of found some rhythm in the third set and they just kept going,” he said. “They played really well and kind of were mistake-free and did a really nice job.”

BYU jumped to a quick 2-0 set lead on Saturday, dominating UCSB in nearly every aspect of the game. After the first two sets, BYU outblocked UCSB 14-4 and nearly doubled UCSB’s hitting percentage.

McGown said the Gauchos were able to adjust to the Cougars’ game plan during the break following set two, while the Cougars failed to adjust in the same manner.

“I thought that offensively we kind of lost some flow and they did a good job defensively against us,” he said. “I think they made some good adjustments to some of the things we were doing and we didn’t keep up offensively with those adjustments they made.”

McGown attributed UCSB’s ultimate success to the ability of their hitters to get around BYU’s blockers. The Gauchos, who trailed 12-8 in the fifth set, used a 7-1 run to end the match in UCSB’s favor.

“I don’t think we served as tough as we wanted to so they were able to pass a little bit better,” he said. “Their hitters just found some rhythm. Before they were kind of playing our block but kind of said, ‘Hey I have a sense of where this is,’ and they were swinging hard and making good shots. So a part of it was us but part of it was just them.”

It was the opposite story the previous night on Feb. 24, as the Gauchos gained the upper hand in the first set, but the Cougars gained the momentum in the second and never looked back for a final score of 28-30, 25-17, 25-16, 25-22.

“All of these teams in our league are great,” McGown said. “They can beat us on any night if we don’t play well and play sharp. Luckily after the first set we were able to pull it together.”

After a close first set, BYU pulled away and cruised to easy victories in sets two, three and four.

“We told the guys congratulations on the win, but we’re not satisfied with that performance,” McGown said. “We kind of let them [UCSB] have the first set with some service errors and then let them back in the fourth set with some attack errors. We talked about the need to have a little bit more composure and a sense of the match and what the flow is and how things are going. … These are all opportunities for us to sort some things out and learn from them and come back better.”

Even though the weekend ended in a disappointing fashion, McGown said BYU’s passing and blocking did a nice job all weekend.

Senior opposite hitter Robb Stowell led all hitters on the weekend with 33 kills, followed by redshirt freshmen Josue Rivera with 24. Junior middle blocker turned in a total 0f 18 blocks, followed by senior Futi Tavana with 11.

BYU will be back in action on March 2 and 3 as it hosts Pepperdine.

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