Four set finish: Cougars complete series sweep of UC Santa Barbara
No. 10 BYU Men’s Volleyball team got another 3-1 win over the no. 14 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Saturday night. After winning the first two sets 25-19 and 25-20, the Cougars looked all out of sorts in an ugly 19-25 set 3 loss that saw the Cougars hit only .030. “We just let way too many opportunities get out of hand there,…one’s we should have capitalized on 100%,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said after the match. However, BYU came out swinging in the fourth set, jumping out to an early lead and finishing strong for a 25-17 win.
Apart from that lopsided third set, the Cougars were decidedly the better team throughout Saturday’s match; BYU outhit UCSB .300 to .260, won the kills battle 54-38, and had 2 more aces than the Gauchos. Sophomore Miks Ramanis led the team offensively, hitting .486 on the night and accounting for 19 kills. Trent Moser and Friday’s man of the match Anthony Cherfan also had big games, chipping in 15 and 9 kills respectively.
The Cougars came out hot in set 1, riding 2 big blocks and a Ramanis kill to an early 3-0 lead. However, Ryan Wilcox and the Gauchos fought back and made it a tight match for the rest of the set. By the first media timeout, BYU was leading 15-12 with Ramanis and Cherfan leading the Cougars with 3 kills each.
Later in the set, a Cherfan ace put the Cougars up 21-17, but a couple of following errors forced Shawn Olmstead to call a timeout as the Gauchos cut the lead back to 2. Whatever he said in the huddle worked though, as his team came out of the timeout on fire and finished the set on an emphatic 4-0 run. A stellar set-point serve from Moser bounced right back into Ramanis’ lap, who slammed it home for a 25-19 set 1 win.
The second set shaped up to be a set of runs. UCSB opened things up with 2 quick points, but Libero Mitchel Worthington made an incredible diving save during a BYU point that galvanized the Cougars to a 5-0 run. After another impressive Cherfan kill and a Heath Hughes dump, the Cougars were up 7-3. The Gauchos weren’t gone yet though, as they scraped their way back to within 2 behind some impressive defense, several BYU service errors, and a Wilcox kill.
The next run was ultimately the decider in this match, as BYU got out to an 18-13 lead behind an ace from Hughes and a Teon Taylor block. From that point on, the Gauchos would never get within striking distance as the Cougars finished them off for a 25-20 win. Though the offense was impressive again (.310 hit percentage and 13 kills), it was the Cougars defense that won them this set, holding UCSB to only .174 hitting and recording twice as many digs as in the first set.
Gauchos Head Coach Rick McLaughlin must have had quite the pump-up speech for his team after set 2, because they came out looking like a completely different team in set 3. On the other side of the court, Olmstead’s squad looked a little out of sorts despite taking an early 3-1 lead on a Ramanis ace. A pair of BYU service errors and Wilcox kills eventually gave UCSB a 3-point lead that would never be broken. At the first media timeout of the set, the Gauchos were leading the Cougars 15-12 and hitting .429 compared to BYU’s overall .000.
The Cougars looked like they had been punched in the face, scrambling to get back on their feet, and could never really recover. There were opportunities to cut into the lead and perhaps take the lead, but they could put a big enough run together. “Any time we did try to make it back in, we kind of hurt ourselves,” Olmstead said of the third match slump. UCSB finished the set going away, winning 25-19. The Cougs never found reliable offense, committing 8 errors and hitting only .030, while the Gauchos had only 2 errors and hit .440.
Now it was Shawn Olmstead’s turn to light a fire. He inserted junior Kupono Browne into the starting lineup to give the team energ, put the pressure on UCSB, “and force them to play.” Browne instantly delivered, electrifying the offense and the crowd en route to an early 8-5 lead. “I just decided I had a role to fulfill, so I was gonna got out there and give as much energy as I could…and I think I did a good job,” Browne said.
The energy in the Smith Fieldhouse kept building with every point, as the Cougars went on a 12-6 tear with Ramanis and Browne leading the way. Eventually, the match culminated in a 3 Ramanis kills and a Gavin Julien block giving BYU the 25-17 set win and the 3-1 match win. BYU finished the set with an amazing 17 kills and 12 digs, hitting .400 to UCSB’s .148.
As the Cougars improve to 8-2 on the season, they are starting to hit their stride and discover what kind of a team they really are. “It’s a long season,” Coach Olmstead said after the match, “…but little by little, we’ve got to keep learning about ourselves, what’s the make up of our team. And I think we are.” His squad is now 4-2 vs AVCA ranked opponents and looks to move up from no. 10 in this week’s poll.
BYU will hit the road again next week as they travel to Los Angeles, California next week to take on the fourth ranked UCLA Bruins on Friday and Saturday.