PROVO, Utah – No. 7 UC Irvine upset No. 3 BYU in an epic 3-2 (25-23, 28-26, 32-34, 21-25, 15-12) match at Smith Fieldhouse.
In the final MPSF match between these two teams, UCI holds off BYU in a contest that lasted two hours and 42 minutes and improves to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference. BYU suffers its first conference loss (2-1) and goes to 6-2 on the year. The loss also snaps BYU's eight match home winning streak.
Defense was key as UCI rejected a season-high 14 blocks and out-dug BYU 34-32 led by MPSF leader Dillon Hoffman's match-high 11 digs. Serving was also important as the Anteaters had nine aces and 28 service errors, while the Cougars had five aces and 25 errors.
Senior Tamir Hershko had a match and season-high 19 kills to go with four blocks and three aces. Senior Thomas Hodges added 13 kills and three bock assists. Freshman Scott Stadick tied his career-best with nine kills and eight block assists. Freshman Matthew Younggren was also effective in the middle with a career-high seven kills and five total blocks. Senior Michael Saeta posted 44 set assists, five kills, six digs and three aces. Sophomore Karl Apfelbach had a career-best nine digs and five block assists.
BYU had a trio of players with double-digit kills, paced by Jake Langlois' 17. Brenden Sander had 15 kills and Ben Patch was held to a .077 hitting percentage with 14 kills.
A 3-0 run in the first set gave the Cougars a 9-6 lead, but UCI would battle back with the help of a kill by Tamir Hershko and a block by Scott Stadick and Karl Apfelbach to knot the score at 11. With the teams tied at 20-20, UCI went on a 4-2 run which included two kills by Hershko and one by Michael Saeta, 24-22. Following a UCI service error, Hershko put away the set winner 25-23. The Anteaters rejected five blocks and out-hit the Cougars .409-.143.
UCI used the momentum of the first set to lead 7-4 on a block by Thomas Hodges and Matthew Younggren. BYU would go on a 6-1 run to take control 10-8 and use a 3-0 spurt to extend the advantage to 16-12. UCI wouldn't go away and used a BYU service error, plus a kill by Stadick and a block by Hodges and Stadick to creep within 16-15. BYU would then peel-off five of the next six points to go up, 21-16. The Anteaters weren't done as BYU had set point 24-19 before a Stadick kill was followed by a Saeta ace and two Cougar errors, the last a block by Stadick and Hersko, 24-23. After a BYU timeout, Saeta fired another ace to tie the set at 24-24. The teams would trade points until Younggren had a solo block and kill on an overpass to clinch the set 27-25.
Following a Younggren ace in the third set which gave UCI the 9-7 lead, BYU had consecutive blocks and a UCI attack that sailed wide to move back in front 10-9. UCI turned up the heat with a kill by Saeta, two by Hershko and block by Stadick and Apfelbach reclaiming the lead, 13-10. A 4-1 BYU run that included three UCI errors tied the set at 19 all. Kills by Saeta and Hershko gave UCI a 21-19 lead only to watch the Cougars tie the set again at 22-22. UCI had match point six times but couldn't close it out as BYU won the set 34-32 on a UCI service error and a block.
UCI started with a quick 4-1 lead in the fourth, which included another Saeta ace. Three UCI errors and a BYU kill narrowed the lead to 9-8. BYU would go ahead 12-11 on two more UCI errors and an ace. Back-to-back kills for the Cougars extended the BYU lead to 19-16. Three Cougar swings that went out helped UCI close to 21-20, but BYU would close out the set 25-21.
A kill by Hodges plus two Cougar attack errors and a Hodges ace gave UCI a 7-3 lead. UCI's comfortable 8-4 lead dwindled with consecutive errors (8-7) forcing an Anteater timeout. A kill by Hershko after a great dig by Hodges followed by a Cougar error put UCI up 10-7 forcing BYU to call timeout. The teams would side-out to end the match, giving UCI the 15-12 victory on a kill by Reid Dominguez. The Anteaters were helped by three consecutive service errors in the final 10 points.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. PT, but the contest will not count in the MPSF standings and is considered a non-conference meeting in the new league format.