PROVO, Utah – The No. 14 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team recorded a historic upset over No. 6 Brigham Young on Friday night, becoming just the fourth team in the past 10 years to pull of a sweep of the Cougars at Smith Fieldhouse. Set scores were 25-23, 25-20, 27-25.
A notoriously tough place for away teams – BYU has an .855 winning percentage on its home floor over the past eight seasons – it was the first sweep in Provo for the Gauchos in the rally scoring era and the first time overall since 1996.
With the victory, UCSB improved to 4-3 on the season with three of those wins coming against top-10 ranked teams.
The Gauchos had a particularly balanced attack against the Cougars (5-4), as sophomore opposite Keenan Sanders led the way with 11 kills but received a lot of help from his teammates. Sophomore outside hitter Roy McFarland contributed nine kills and hit .429 while Corey Chavers was also a key contributor with seven kills.
Five of UCSB's six starters finished with hitting percentages north of .375 and the team out-hit the Cougars .312 to .230 overall. Sophomore setter Randy DeWeese, who coordinated the offense, ended up with 31 assists on the evening.
BYU received a dozen kills apiece from Gabi Garcia Fernandez and Brenden Sander, but saw themselves get edged in the ace (4-3) and block (6-4.5) departments while committing seven more attack errors than the Gauchos.
UCSB's offense was a well-oiled machine in the first game – three separate players had four kills and all five hitters had multiple kills – helping the team to a healthy 10-6 advantage early on. The Gauchos held that lead steady until the Cougars built momentum late, using a late 7-3 run to cut their deficit to one at 22-21. After a flurry of timeouts and clutch plays by both teams, a perfect set from DeWeese on set point found Sanders all alone with no blockers on the right side, and the Freshman All-American easily buried the attempt to put UCSB up 1-0.
Things were tight early on in the second set, but the Gauchos pulled away on a 4-0 run capped off by a huge Chavers block to make it 18-14. Tough serving and good reads on the block – UCSB had half its blocks for the match in the second set alone – kept BYU off balance and forced them into a number of errors down the stretch. DeWeese set up game point for the Gauchos with a solo block on a Sander swing, then ended it moments later with his third kill of the night.
UCSB had to weather five kills apiece from Sanders and Garcia Fernandez, but were eventually able to pull it out in a rollercoaster third set. The Gauchos looked to have the sweep in the bag when BYU was whistled for a ball handling violation to make it 21-18, but the home team roared back from the brink with five straight points to put the Gauchos on their heels ar 21-23.
A bad serve by the Cougars followed by back-to-back attack errors set up the first of three match points for the Gauchos, who eventually converted when DeWeese and junior middle Connor Drake (3-0-5, two blocks) teamed up to block a Storm Fa'agata-Tufug tip.
UCSB and BYU will play each other once again on Saturday night, with first serve set for 6:00 p.m. PT at Smith Fieldhouse. The contest will be televised live on BYU TV.