The No. 4 men’s volleyball team went into the weekend’s road games against No. 3 UCLA with a mission: to win the MPSF conference title.
The task did not prove to be a simple one as the Cougars won, but then lost, a tough five-set match on Friday night.
What initially appeared to be a 17-15 fifth set BYU victory on an ace from redshirt freshman outside hitter Josue Rivera turned into a heated 10-minute discussion, followed by the call being overturned and an eventual 20-18 UCLA victory.
The controversey stemmed from a miscommunication between the line judge, who initially called Rivera’s serve out, and the head official, who called the serve in. The head official overruled the line judge’s call, giving BYU both the point and the match. UCLA coach Al Scates proceeded to protest the call.
After what BYU coach Chris McGown said was a lengthy, animated, colorfully languaged discussion, it was decided the point would be replayed, ultimately giving UCLA the victory.
“I think the big issue was there was some miscommunications between the officials, that and UCLA’s coach should never have been able to go over and discuss events with the officials like he did,” McGown said. “He shouldn’t have been able to affect the results of the match … The way Scates went about arguing his point was completely contrary to not only league rules but also sportsmanship and ethics and that sort of thing and I think that’s why the league decided to step in.”
Unwilling to accept anything less than the victory they believed they had earned, the BYU athletic department contacted the MPSF conference commissioner and protested the match’s ruling.
After a near-sleepless night and a long day of discussions with conference officials, it was decided the end of Friday night’s match would be replayed starting at 16-16.
“My response to it was it was completely unprecendented. In all of sports I have never seen anything like this, where they would come back the next night and say, ‘we’re going to replay the fifth set starting at 16-all,'” McGown said. “I wasn’t so interested in that because I thought we had won the match outright … But the league decided that, in their opinion, the fairest way to resolve the issue would be to replay the match from 16-all in the fifth.”
The Cougars quickly won the replay 2-0 thanks to a dig from sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander and a block from senior middle blocker Futi Tavana, making the official match score 27-29, 16-25, 25-22, 25-18, 18-16.
Saturday night’s match proved to be much less exhilarating as UCLA cruised to a three-set victory over BYU (17-25, 19-25, 17-25).
The Cougars finished with a less than stellar .095 hitting percentage, their worst on the season. But according to McGown, the real problem was the Bruins served and passed well, while the Cougars did not.
“They [UCLA] served incredibly tough and they passed really well,” McGown said. “I think it was mostly a function of not being able to receive-serve. They had us on our heels the entire time and we weren’t passing the ball where we could really get a rhythm going offensively … Ultimately, when we can’t pass, it’s really hard to put up any kind of numbers against a team that good.”
McGown said he was surprised at BYU’s lack of energy during Saturday night’s match.
“I didn’t think that we would come out as flat as we did in the actual match,” McGown said. “I thought we’d be fired up having just won that match and we’d come out and play great. But UCLA, to their credit, really was aggressive from the service line and we weren’t, and I thought that was the entire difference.”
He attributed UCLA’s quick victory to its serving and its impressive defense, but also said BYU was spent from the weekend’s controversy over Friday night’s game.
“No one slept Friday night,” McGown said. “We just couldn’t find any energy and I think ultimately, we’d given everything we had the night before and winning those two earlier points.”
The Cougars will return home for its final regular season matches on April 13 and 14 to host Penn State.