MVB: Gauchos stretch No. 1 BYU to five

PROVO, Utah – The No. 15 Gauchos were within a game from taking their first victory over a No. 1 ranked team since 2011, coming up just short in a 3-2 loss to the BYU Cougars on Thursday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

The loss stopped a two match winning streak for the Gauchos, who fall to 5-8 overall with a 3-6 conference mark. The Cougars improved to 7-2, 6-1 with the win. Game scores went 21-25, 25-18, 25-13, 25-27, 15-9.

Despite the loss, the Gauchos received a very encouraging performance from senior outside hitter Miles Evans, who matched a career high and set a new season high with 21 kills. Miles has been hindered by a lingering leg injury, and is just returning to full fitness. The Santa Barbara native took nine more swings on Thursday night than in any other appearance this season.

Senior middle blocker Dylan Davis cemented his status as one of the premier middle hitters in the country by reaching double-digit kills for the third straight match. On top of his 10 kills, Davis added five blocks in the losing effort. With the score tied 18-18 in the first game, a Davis kill sparked a four point rally that would allow the Gauchos to coast to a set victory.

BYU quickly recovered and claimed the next two games on the strength of overwhelming play from their outside hitters. Taylor Sander led the charge for the Cougars, finishing with 20 kills. Fellow BYU outside Ben Patch finished just behind with 19 kills.

The Gauchos fought back against BYU’s momentum in an extremely close fourth set that included 11 ties. A Kevin Donohue kill with the score tied 25-25 set up game point for the Gauchos, who leveled with the Cougars after a Taylor Sander attacking error.

The battle of attrition between the two teams lasted into the early part of the decisive fifth game, but the Gauchos hit a wall with the score tied 8-8, as the Cougars went off on a six point that allowed them to easily claim the match.

As a team, BYU outblocked the Gauchos 15.5 to 12.0 and outhit them .369 to .281.

Other notable Gaucho performances came from freshman setter Jonah Seif, who had a team-high six blocks to go with a match-high 55 assists, Matt Marsh — who had 13 kills and UCSB’s only ace, and Chad Kingi, who had a team-high 10 digs.

Next week, the Gauchos will travel south to take on a pair of MPSF foes. On Thursday, Feb. 14, UCSB will take on the reigning NCAA champion UC Irvine, while Friday, Feb. 15 will see the Gauchos take on UC San Diego. The Gauchos have played both teams already this season, getting swept despite a solid performance on Jan. 30 by the Anteaters and defeating UCSD on Feb. 1.