Avoiding a sweep was the Gaucho game plan this weekend, but battling an undefeated #2 Brigham Young team amidst a tundra of over 3,900 Cougar fans in their home arena proved an inconceivable feat to overcome in back-to-back nights.
The #8 UCSB men’s volleyball team (2-5 overall, 1-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) fell to the Cougars (6-0 overall, 4-0 MPSF) in four games Friday night before a sweep in three games Saturday continued the hot streak for BYU.
“[Provo] is a tough place to play,” junior outside hitter Bryan Berman said. “They’re loud, so it’s really hard to hear. We had a lot of trouble communicating with our blockers at times.”
A season-high 29 kills from junior opposite Evan Patak in Friday’s contest was not enough for the Gauchos to roll past BYU, as four Cougars shoveled double-digit kill totals en route to a .443 team hitting percentage on the night. Despite losing a monumental game two, BYU dominated the evening, handing Santa Barbara the loss 30-17, 35-37, 30-23, 32-30.
Despite his 29 kills, Patak only recorded a .288 hitting percentage and added nine service errors, two shy of the entire Cougar service errors on the night.
“Our offense wasn’t clicking and Patak had to assume the load,” Berman said. “Their blockers camped out on him and that’s why he wasn’t putting up good numbers.”
Sophomore outside hitter Ivan Perez knocked down a Cougar-high 23 kills, closely followed by senior outside hitter Taylor Evans with 19 of his own. BYU led the Gauchos in virtually every statistical category, yet their defense seemed to be the largest contributor to their dominating play.
“They’re a good blocking team,” Berman said. “We came back and battled the first night, but the second night we came out flat out of the gates.”
Saturday’s match proved to be a battle of opposing defenses, yet BYU took control of their competitors once again, posting 10 team blocks to the Gaucho’s three in a 30-24, 30-28, 30-24 sweep. Santa Barbara managed to hold the Cougars to .337 hitting percentage and this time allowed only Perez to reach double digit kill totals, yet the Gaucho’s 24 hitting errors proved costly at key moments of play.
“We weren’t getting balls to our middles very well,” Berman said. “We weren’t spreading the ball like we wanted.”
After maintaining a slight lead throughout game two, the Gauchos failed to capture a side out in a key rally late in the game, allowing the Cougars to capitalize off of the Gaucho mistake and control the rest of the match.
BYU was able to shut down Patak for a second night in row, as the All-American was only able to convert 18 of his 43 kill attempts and was held without a service ace for the first time this season.