The BYU men’s volleyball team played their worst match of the season and fell to No. 3 UCLA one night after squeaking out a fifth set win over No. 7 UC Santa Barbara.
The Cougars played their usual resilient style in Friday’s win over the Gauchos. They overcame a 2–1 deficit and stole the match on the road (20–25, 25–20, 18–25, 25–21, 15–13). This is a trend that BYU coach Chris McGown is used to from his team.
“I thought Santa Barbara played really well,” McGown said in a press release. “But we just held our composure. It’s something we’ve learned to do and have become pretty good at. The guys are confident that we can battle through these tough situations even when we aren’t playing well.”
Opposite hitter Ben Patch led BYU with 19 kills while outside hitter Taylor Sander pitched in 18 kills and 11 digs. Evan Licht led UC Santa Barbara with 21 kills and eight digs.
The Cougars found themselves in a 12–13 hole in the fifth set after going back and forth the entire match. Sander stepped up and hit back-to-back service aces to give the Cougars a 14–13 lead, and the Cougars got one final block to put the game away.
“We can do a nice job trusting in each other and sticking with things we know how to do and ultimately trusting that our good brand of volleyball will prevail,” McGown said.
BYU played significantly worse on Saturday night, getting swept by UCLA. It was BYU’s first loss this season that didn’t go to a fifth set.
BYU never took a lead in the first set but kept it close. The team cut the lead to 23–24, but lost the last point and dropped the set by two. BYU only managed 19 and 20 points the last two sets.
Sander and Patch each recorded 10 kills for the Cougars, who swept the Bruins in a home match in early February. Reigning national and conference player of the week Gonzalo Quiroga led the Bruins with 15 kills. The Bruins snapped the Cougars’ nation-best 12-game winning streak.
BYU secured the outright No. 1 seed in the MPSF Conference tournament and essentially clinched a spot in the NCAA Final Four in early May. The Cougars dropped to 20–4 on the season in Saturday’s loss.
BYU stays on the road for its final matches of the year, squaring off against Pacific and Stanford next weekend.