No. 6 BYU men’s volleyball fought a good fight and played with a lot enthusiasm, but it wasn’t enough to beat the No. 5 UC Irvine Anteaters Friday night in a 3-1 loss at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Jake Langlois and Phil Fuchs set the tone of the game with their share of kills to start. The Cougars kept the set tied 6-6 with a hard-fought rally. Good blocking from Langlois and back-to-back kills from Fuchs helped BYU pull ahead 14-10 and, from there, would turn the intensity up to take the first set 25-20.
That momentum swung to the Anteaters in the second set as they took an early 5-2 lead. BYU stayed cool under the pressure and fought its way back to tie the set 9-9. More kills from Fuchs and Langlois helped the Cougars stay close, but it wasn’t enough, as the second set went to UC Irvine 25-19.
“We executed offensively pretty well in the first set and then struggled the rest of the way through,” Coach Chris McGown said. “We’ve been in these tight moments, and this group has struggled to win tight sets and be able to execute.”
The Cougars’ smart setting and dominant blocking didn’t let them fall behind in the third, set as the Anteaters worked to keep things tied. Langlois’ first ace of the night gave the Cougars a 19-17 lead from there. He dove to save the ball three separate times in set point, but the Cougars fell short, and the set went to UC Irvine 29-27. Langlois finished the night with 17 kills, five blocks and one ace on the night.
“(Langlois) is a hard-working kid, and his heart is fully invested in everything we do,” McGown said.
The Anteaters began the fourth and final set looking to seal the deal as they took off with a 13-5 lead. The Cougars turned things around toward the end of the set, coming back at the final moments to make it a 24-22 deficit, but UC Irvine dashed hopes of any further comeback with a 25-23 set–win and 3-1 match–win. UC Irvine hit a .276 attack percentage with 59 assists and only 10 blocks compared to BYU’s 18.9 attack percentage, 46 assists and 20 blocks on the night.
“We played a good defensive match; we just have to find ways to be better offensively,” McGown said.
The Cougars will have a chance to redeem themselves against UC Irvine Saturday, March 27, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.