Leonard Paulasa / Daily Nexus

Over the past weekend, the UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team traveled to Provo, Utah to take on No. 2 BYU on Friday and Saturday. UCSB came into the match winners of their first six games of the season, securing the No. 3 spot in the country. This heavyweight matchup featured some of the brightest and most talented athletes in the game right now. Both teams played extremely hard, but ultimately BYU just had too many weapons for UCSB to handle. BYU would win Friday’s matchup 3-1 and Saturday’s contest 3-2.

Friday’s game was the first time these two teams have met since last year’s matchups, which UCSB took on the road and won 3-0 and 3-0. BYU most likely had these games in the back of their minds and used it to fuel an impressive showing. BYU came out swinging in Friday’s match, connecting at a very high clip on attacking attempts. They would win the first set rather handily at 25-16. 

However, Santa Barbara wouldn’t just roll over. They would make key adjustments early on and respond in the second set. The Gauchos only hit .272 that day, but in the second frame they were able to connect at a higher rate. Senior setter Randy DeWeese led the way for UCSB, picking up 15 kills in the contest. BYU wasn’t able to come back after suffering an early deficit, resulting in a 25-21 UCSB victory. After two sets, they were tied up at one set apiece.

The third set was probably the closest back-and-forth of the game before some Santa Barbara errors opened up the game and allowed BYU to capitalize. The game was all locked up at 17-17 and looked like it could go either way before a series of serving mistakes killed SB’s momentum. From that point on, BYU had strong control of the momentum with all the energy in the building fueling their play. They would take the third game 25-21. 

The closeout set was a lot like the third one. The momentum had completely swung midway through the third set, and it didn’t seem as though UCSB would be able to recover from that. BYU would close this series out with a 25-17 victory.

UCSB wouldn’t even have 24 hours to break down the game and make adjustments because they would play them again the following day! Saturday’s contest would turn out to be more back-and-forth, turning into a battle that came down to the final set. 

The first game was extremely competitive, both teams trading blows throughout. UCSB gained a slight advantage late in the set because of big kills by Roy McFarland and DeWeese, forcing a BYU timeout. Out of the timeout, the Gauchos were able to get a crucial stop and convert that into the closeout points of the game. Casey McGarry would be the offensive catalyst of the day, as he picked up one of his season-high  53 assists on the last play of the set. UCSB would take the first set 25-23.

The second set was also back and forth before UCSB’s service errors hindered their chances of winning. Santa Barbara led BYU in every major stat category hitting percentage, blocks and digs but ultimately UCSB’s serving miscues are what led to BYU’s successes. BYU evened things up at one after taking the second set 25-22.

UCSB would come out of the break playing their best volleyball. The Gaucho defense really stepped up in this set, holding BYU to an abysmal .094 hitting percentage in the set. The Gauchos would take this one easily, 25-20, securing a 2-1 lead on the road. The fourth set was just like the second. These powerhouses were neck and neck up until UCSB had game point off of a McFarland spike, one of his 15 kills in the match. With an opportunity to close the game out, service errors cost UCSB the win and forced a fifth and final set. This fourth set finished with BYU winning 28-26.

The fifth set was a big struggle for UCSB. The momentum had swung yet again as the fans in Utah went crazy for their BYU Cougars. BYU rallied around one another to pick up their 10th victory of the year. They took the deciding set 15-11. 

UCSB has a good opportunity in front of them — a chance to bounce back on the road against a strong opponent. The Gauchos fly to Ohio to take on Ohio State this Friday. The game’s opening serve is at 4 p.m.