Provo • UC Santa Barbara's Jeff Menzel stood outside the seventh-seeded Gauchos' locker room and tried to find the right words to sum up his team's stunning upset victory against No. 2 BYU in the opening round of the MPSF Tournament.
Not only did the Gauchos snap the Cougars' seven-match win streak Saturday night, they were also the first team to beat BYU in the Smith Fieldhouse this season.
"You guys call us the underdogs. We knew we could win," said Menzel, who enjoyed a monster season-high 27 kills in UCSB's 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-22 victory. "I'm shaking all over."
Menzel credited a BYU fan, "in a blue shirt," as if that narrowed down the suspects, for firing up not only him but the entire UC Santa Barbara (15-14) team, playing its first tournament in four seasons.
"I play better mad," Menzel said.
As for BYU (20-9), which spent the entire match trying to find some sort of offensive continuity, the execution did not match the effort.
"All of us, we tried to do too much," said BYU's opposite Robb Stowell, who had a team-high 19 kills. "We tried to play perfect. We got away from what we had been doing all season."
As the match wore on, the Cougars played tighter and tighter. They committed 14 service errors. Meanwhile, Taylor Sander did not enjoy his finest match. The Cougars outside hitter managed just a .163 hitting percentage as the Gauchos targeted the conference Freshman of the Year.
"We put it on him," Menzel said.
In a bit of repeat history, UCSB also upset BYU in 2005, the last time both teams met in tournament play.
"[Menzel's] an incredible athlete," said BYU coach Rob Neilson, who tried unsuccessfully to get his players to relax. "[UCSB] played loose, they played free and they played like they had nothing to lose."
Storylines Cougars crumble in third game
R UCSB's Jeff Menzel scores a season-high 27 kills with a .373 hitting percentage.
• BYU owns a 20-17 lead in the third game, but is outscored 9-4 down the stretch.
• UC Santa Barbara becomes the first team to defeat No. 2 BYU at home this season.