Feb. 2, 2009


Courtesy of BYU Athletics

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Just one night after falling in five sets to No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, the No. 9 BYU men’s volleyball team rebounded to defeat the Gauchos 3-2 (29-31, 31-29, 15-30, 30-24, 15-8) Saturday night. With the win the Cougars improve to 5-4 on the season and 3-1 in MFSP play. Saturday also marks BYU’s first five-set win of the 2009 season.

The weekend’s two matches were anomalies in a series that has resulted in sweeps in 24 of the previous 39 matchups. Only twice did the competition go on to five sets during that time span.

“Not only is it important to win a five-set match, but to do it on the road is huge for our young team,” said BYU head coach Shawn Patchell. “I’m proud of how we responded from last night’s disappointment. Our team showed resiliency and we made some improvements.”

Several Cougars set new career highs against UCSB, starting with junior opposite Mat Taylor who recorded 26 kills on the night and also led the team with his .429 hitting percentage.

“Mat [Taylor] continues to play really steady and smart volleyball,” said Patchell. “Some of his kills came at big moments when we were out of our system. He was able to manufacture kills and help us get back on track.”

Junior outside hitter Andrew Stewart finished second on the team with 21 kills, while sophomore transfer Alex Da Pron recorded a career-high 10 kills. Junior setter Yamil Perez racked up 66 assists, a new season high, while redshirt freshman Futi Tavana put up a career-high 10 total blocks.

The Cougars found themselves down 3-1 early in the first set before going on a 4-1 run to gain a 7-6 advantage. BYU built two five-point leads before the Gauchos scored five straight points off three consecutive kills to tie the game 25-25. Both teams alternated points before a service ace clinched the set win for UCSB, 31-29.

Game two started identically to the first with the Gauchos holding the early lead. Down 26-22, the Cougars went on a 5-0 run, including kills by Tavana and Taylor and back-to-back service aces by Stewart. Tied 29-29, Kevin Sagers knocked down a powerful kill to force set point. Taylor, Sagers and Otavio Souza combined for a block to win the set 31-29 and tie the match one set all.

In set three BYU and UCSB recorded almost identical kills, 11 and 12 respectively, but the Gauchos put up five blocks, compared to the Cougars’ zero. Combined with BYU’s seven attack errors, too many mistakes resulted in the Gauchos’ 30-15 win.

Neither team could gain more than a one-point lead in the fourth set until a block by Tavana put the Cougars’ up 11-9. BYU extended that lead to four after a team block and kill by Taylor. The Cougars successfully dominated the set, building their lead and taking the Gauchos out of the rhythm they’d built earlier in the match. BYU forced a fifth set after an attack error by UCSB ended the game 30-24.

A kill by Da Pron gave BYU the first point of the final set--the only time the Cougars claimed the first point all night. Four kills from Taylor helped extend BYU’s lead to as much as seven points, at 14-7. With the result of the match on the line, Stewart knocked down a kill, sealing the overall win for BYU. The Cougars had an impressive .714 hitting percentage in the fifth set.

“All the credit goes to Yamil [Perez] for distributing the ball,” said Patchell. “He’s done a terrific job for us. Also, Alex [Da Pron] came in and played really well for us. He really got the momentum going in our favor late in the fourth set and the fifth, and contributed in a positive way.”

Next the Cougars will prepare to hit the road for back-to-back matches against USC on Feb. 6-7. Both matches will begin a 7 p.m. PT. BYU will next play at home in the Smith Fieldhouse on Feb. 20-21 as it hosts UC San Diego.