No. 1 UC Irvine Grinds Past No. 6 BYU In Four Sets
April 4, 2009
Courtesy of BYU
PROVO, Utah (April 3, 2009) – Playing its final home match of the season, a season-high 3,878 fans were in attendance as the No. 6 BYU men’s volleyball team dropped a tough 3-1 match (30-28, 26-30, 30-27, 30-27) to No. 1 UC Irvine Friday night in the Smith Fieldhouse. With the loss the Cougars and Anteaters split the weekend series and BYU falls to 15-10, 11-7 MPSF on the season.
The Cougars finished their 2009 home season with a 9-3 record, having lost only five matches in the past three years.
“It would have been nice to sweep this weekend, but we have to move on and keep playing,” said BYU head coach Shawn Patchell. “I liked out matchups and thought we were playing well enough to win, but UCI made some great plays. It was good volleyball tonight. The crowd seemed to enjoy it.”
The crowd of 3,878 not only marked the largest to visit the Fieldhouse this season, but the largest since Feb. 3, 2007 when 5,603 came to watch then-top ranked BYU fall to then-No. 2 UCI in a battle similar to Friday night’s.
Sophomore transfer Alex Da Pron recorded a team-high 16 kills against the Anteaters, his former teammates. Junior opposite Kent Tuttle contributed 12 kills just one night after a head-on collision requiring staples.
UCI, who currently leads the country in blocking, out-blocked the Cougars 18.5 to 18. Redshirt freshman Futi Tanava led BYU with nine blocks on the night, while freshman Russell Lavaja added eight of his own.
With the Anteaters pulled ahead 13-8, going on a 4-0 run to start the first set. BYU broke the run after a timeout and kill by Da Pron. UCI extended its lead to seven points before the Cougars put together a little 5-0 run of their own. During that span BYU got a service ace from Reed Chilton and kills by Tuttle and Andrew Stewart. The Cougars found themselves within one point of a tie five times before a kill by Tuttle knotted the score 28-28. BYU errors sealed a 30-28 win for UCI.
Both teams kept the second set close, tying the score eight times in the early minutes. Da Pron and Lavaja combined for a block to give the Cougars a 17-15 lead. After the Anteaters tied it up at 18-18, BYU scored three-straight points, forcing UCI to call a timeout. The run continued as Chilton recorded a second ace and Tavana and Kevin Sager combined for a block. It took five set-point scenarios before a costly UCI service error secured a BYU set-win and tied the match.
The Anteaters maintained a steady lead to start the third set, but the Cougars clawed back into it with five-straight points, retaking the lead 14-13. Tied 20-20, Da Pron knocked down his ninth kill of the match, but UCI continued to fight, again gaining the advantage at 23-21. Despite out blocking the Anteaters 7.5 to 5.5, the Cougars eventually dropped the set 30-27.
“When you’re afraid to make an error, you usually do,” said Patchell. “We have to work on realizing that the hitter always has an advantage against the block.”
It was a critical fourth set as BYU tried to stay in the match. Junior opposite Mat Taylor, who came in to relieve Tuttle, recorded four kills to give his team an 11-7 lead. Several long rallies went UCI’s way before the Cougars finally secured one of their own to go up by five points. BYU led by as many as seven after a block by Lavaja and Stewart. The Anteaters tied it up 24-24 before going on to score consecutive points. Da Pron knocked down two kills, bringing BYU within one, but it wasn’t enough as UCI claimed the set and match.
The Cougars hit the road for the final two weeks of the regular season. They first travel to Stanford for two matches on April 10-11 and then close out conference play at Pepperdine on April 16-17.