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UCLA volleyball falls to Cougars’ attacks

By Daily Bruin Staff

April 26, 2010 3:40 pm

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article provided incorrect Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rankings for UCLA and BYU. UCLA is ranked 16-14, 11-11, and BYU is ranked 22-8, 15-7.

In a season that has been typified by upsets and improbable victories for the UCLA men’s volleyball team, the conclusion to the 2009-2010 campaign finally went the way it was supposed to.

The No. 7 Bruins (16-14, 11-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation), who were also seeded seventh, fell to the No. 2 and second-seeded BYU Cougars (22-8, 15-7) in the quarterfinals of the MPSF Tournament, 30-28, 30-26, 26-30, 30-26, thus ending their season in front of 1,362 at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.

Coach Al Scates said the Bruins have themselves to blame for not securing home court advantage in the tournament.

“Our team was good enough so that if we played well against some of the lesser opponents in the league, we would have been hosting the first round match tonight,” Scates said.

The Bruins got out to an early 5-1 lead in the first set, but the Cougars’ duo of Kevin Sagers and Andrew Stewart at outside hitter was too much for the Bruins to handle.

Sagers finished with 17 kills while Stewart added 16. Opposite Robb Stowell added 18 as well.

“Their outside hitters were very good and they attacked us down the line,” Scates said. “We just couldn’t stop them.”

Playing at an elevation of 4,551 feet may have hindered the Bruins’ serving game, as the ball tends to float deeper than at sea level. They committed 24 service errors to BYU’s 18.

“That’s definitely an advantage for them so we made a few more service errors than usual and it’s something that they’re used to,” sophomore quick hitter Nick Vogel said.

Vogel also mentioned the Cougars’ fan support as being exceptionally strong, giving them an edge.

Playing his last match in a Bruin uniform, Garrett Muagututia led the Bruins with 16 kills, while sophomore opposite Jack Polales and Vogel added 14 and 13, respectively. The Cougars, who came into Saturday night’s match leading the conference in blocks, won the blocking battle again with 12 total blocks, besting the Bruins by three.

“They’re a great blocking team but we had been working on attacking the block more and trying to make them make the errors,” Vogel said. “It gets into your head getting blocked, but we were giving it right back to them.”

Scates, who has now completed 48 years of coaching the Bruins, knows by now that hitting percentage and total blocks are usually good indicators of which team will come out on top. The Cougars hit for a .364 clip and held the Bruins to .307 on the night.

“Basically we had to outhit them and outblock them and we didn’t do either one of those,” Scates said. “That was the difference.”

Injuries and eligibility issues have plagued the Bruins all year, and Scates was missing the services of starting outside hitter Jeremy Casebeer, as well as former setter Kyle Caldwell, who has not played since fall quarter because of academic ineligibility.

“We didn’t have a setter who was a big blocker that was ready to set all the way around,” Scates said. “Caldwell not being available is a definite factor because we could have used him.”

Overall, Scates was pleased with his team’s effort but acknowledged that BYU was just too strong.

“All in all, it was a good effort but I think BYU was favored to win tonight and they did.”

All-MPSF Accolades

Senior captain Garrett Muagututia was named to the All-MPSF Second Team last week. This is Muagututia’s third straight second-team honor.

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