Facing the No. 1 team in the country on the road isn’t exactly the way the No. 15 UCSB men’s volleyball team wanted to begin its six-game road trip. Nevertheless, the Gauchos took top-ranked Brigham Young University to the full five sets last night in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at Smith Fieldhouse.
In quite possibly their best performance of the season, the Gauchos were unable to overcome a six-point run by the Cougars in the fifth set to come away with the victory.
“It was a tough loss, definitely the toughest loss of the year,” sophomore outside hitter Kevin Donohue said. “But even though it’s a loss it’s going to give us confidence.”
With the loss, UC Santa Barbara drops to 5-8 overall and 3-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and is now 1-4 in five-set matches. BYU remains atop the MPSF with a 6-1 conference record and is 7-2 overall.
UCSB gave the Cougars trouble from the beginning phases of the first set, trading point for point. Not letting BYU extend its lead by more than three at any part of the set, the Gauchos eventually were able to pull ahead to 20-18 and force BYU into a timeout.
From then on Santa Barbara took full control, scoring four of the next five points and won the set on a kill by senior outside hitter Miles Evans to win 25-21.
However, any type of momentum proved to be short-lived as the Gauchos were unable to carry over its solid offensive play from the first set into the second and allowed BYU to win 25-18.
BYU dominated the third set and exploited a Gaucho team that came out flat. Hitting .050 and managing only eight kills, Santa Barbara could not keep in check the pressure applied by the Cougars and lost the set 25-13, the largest point differential loss in a set this season by UCSB.
Santa Barbara was far from finished and came back in the fourth. Despite 11 ties in the frame, UCSB never gave up its lead once and gutted out a thrilling 27-25 win to set the stage for its second straight five-set match.
“The fourth set was a tough, grueling match. We went point-for-point with BYU almost the entire game,” Donohue said. “They made a little rally there to try to come back in the fourth but in the end we sealed it with some great blocking [and] good serving late in the game.”
With an 8-8 score in the fifth, BYU outscored Santa Barbara 7-1 for the remainder of the set to earn its first five-set win this season and defeat UCSB.
Freshman setter Jonah Seif led the way for the Gauchos, notching a career-high 55 assists and helping four Gauchos reach double-digit kills in the game.
UCSB will now get ready to play at UC Irvine on February 14.