BYU Men's volleyball vs. Ohio State 12

Brigham Young University setter Wil Stanley (3) celebrates winning the first set during the Cougars' season-opener against the Ohio State Buckeyes held Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Something happened to the BYU men’s volleyball team last weekend that hasn’t happened in ten years.

It wasn’t something to celebrate.

The Cougars were swept in back-to-back matches at UC Santa Barbara, a rare occurrence in the program: The last time BYU was swept twice in a row was in March of 2009 at then-No. 1 CS Northridge.

The Cougars were back to work on Monday, a quick turnaround to start Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play with road matches at No. 5 Pepperdine on Wednesday and No. 4 UCLA on Saturday.

UC Santa Barbara moved from ninth to sixth in the AVCA poll after dicing up BYU last weekend.

“Volleyball at this level, coaches, media and fans talk about the importance of receiving serve and being able to serve tough,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Santa Barbara did that so much better than we did, so that was tough. We’ve got to be able to control a few more things that we can control on our side of the net and execute at a higher level on things that I thought we let slip away.”

The Gauchos dominated both nights in the service game. BYU committed 20 service errors on Friday and the home team countered with nine aces. On Saturday, the Cougars cut their errors to 13 but allowed 11 service aces.

Of the six sets played, BYU only served for a win in Set 3 on Saturday, but eventually lost that one, 27-25.

“Santa Barbara that weekend was a better team,” Olmstead said. “We’ve got to learn from that. It was a tough loss and I wish we could have been more competitive. But the good thing about being in season is get the opportunity to turn around and go again.”

The challenge is a big one. Pepperdine beat UCSB twice already this season (3-2 in Santa Barbara and 3-1 in Malibu) and UCLA (8-2) was the preseason pick to win the MPSF.

“We’re excited that we will be able to get out and take a step away from what happened last weekend,” Olmstead said. “We always believe. That’s the culture that’s kind of been created here at BYU and the guys talk about it. We want to be competitive in our conference and compete for a conference championship. We want to compete for a good spot in the conference tournament where we can be in a good position to make a run at the end.”

The BYU-Pepperdine and BYU-UCLA matchups are two of the most competitive in the country. The Cougars’ 3-0 sweep of Pepperdine last season clinched the MPSF regular-season title and BYU beat the Bruins in the MPSF Tournament finals. But UCLA earned a 3-1 victory against the Cougars in the national semifinals.

“We talked about it before practice,” Omstead said. “At the start of conference we have a clean slate. Here’s our overall record and now we’re back at 0-0 at the start of conference. Let’s see if we can get off on the right foot and get going in stride here.”

Darnell Dickson, who has been covering sports in Utah since 1989 (with a detour to Nebraska for three years somewhere in there), is currently the BYU football columnist and BYU men’s basketball beat writer.

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