The top-ranked BYU men's volleyball team racked up its seventh-straight three-game sweep as the Cougars downed No. 2 UC Irvine 30-21, 30-22, 30-27 before a top-10 Smith Fieldhouse crowd of 5,753 Friday night.
BYU (9-0 overall, 5-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) handed regular-season MPSF champion and preseason favorite UCI (10-2, 5-2) its second straight league defeat.
"I think the guys were disciplined tonight," said BYU interim co-head coach Shawn Patchell, whose Cougars flip-flopped with the Anteaters in this week's national rankings. "I was a little worried with the big crowd and all the hype."
Ah, yes, the Cougars can all recite Patchell's mantra — "Don't believe the hype."
But eight sweeps in nine matches isn't hype — it's a hard, fast fact. Sweep victims include defending NCAA champion UCLA twice plus Top 15 foes Penn State, Loyola-Chicago and now Irvine.
"Guys on this team just have been solid," said middle blocker Russell Holmes. "We have a game plan, and we execute it."
Added Patchell of the Cougars' sweeps: "I think it says we've got some good chemistry ... we're a well-balanced team."
Leading BYU's balanced attack were Ivan Perez, Yosleyder Cala and Robby Stowell sharing match-high honors with nine kills each. Rodnei Santos added six kills on .857 hitting, while Holmes added five kills, two aces and contributed to a half-dozen blocks.
Outhit .375 to .146, UCI was its own worst enemy with 27 kill errors and 20 service errors. Two of the Anteaters' top players — 2006 national player of the year Jayson Jablonsky and second-team All-American Matt Webber each managed to hit a paltry .000.
"They helped us," said Patchell of Irvine's error-prone play. "But we didn't play outside ourselves."
In the first game, Irvine's 13 kills and 13 errors resulted in .000 hitting, with nine service errors to boot. BYU needed only eight kills and five blocks to double up the Anteaters midway in the match and cruise to the easy 30-21 victory.
UCI enjoyed several four-point margins early in the second before the Cougars drew even at each point from 11 to 17. BYU broke open the game with a 10-2 run en route to a 30-22 victory.
The back-and-forth third game — aided by a number of BYU miscues — was tied as late as 25-all before the Cougars settled for the 30-27 score.
BYU will look to improve its blocking and cut down service errors when the two teams meet again tonight at 7 p.m.
"Tomorrow (Saturday) is another match, and we're going to prepare as if they're No. 1," said Perez.
And Holmes anticipates more of the same.
"Another sweep," he said. "We expect nothing less."