Cougars come out on top in a tight, back-and-forth match against Pepperdine
PROVO, Utah — In a match where neither team had the luxury of sitting on a comfortable lead for long, BYU men’s volleyball came out on top over Pepperdine 3-1, to move to 3-1 on the season after three consecutive wins.
The No. 7 Waves (2-2, 2-2) took the first set 25-23, before No. 1 BYU (3-1, 3-1) came back to take the next three 28-26, 25-23 and 26-24.
Counting the match against Pepperdine the night before, the Cougars and Waves played six consecutive sets that were decided by two points.
"For us, trying to key in a little bit better on our passing so we could move the ball around was it," said head coach Shawn Olmstead. "Getting Gabi going opened up things more and more. We knew that sooner or later he was going to get going, and he came around and started getting some better swings and better opportunities so we were able to go from there."
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars with 16 kills, hitting .345, and three aces. It was the 27th match of Garcia Fernandez’s career where he’s had three or more aces. Davide Gardini had 14 kills and a team-high seven digs.
“We had a lot of trust in each other,” Gardini said. “By the end of the game we were making good plays, but we were confident that the guys next to us were going to make good plays. That for sure helped us, and serving. The serving at the end, some guys made some good decisions that helped us a lot.”
The match started off where Friday’s match between these two teams left off, when BYU and Pepperdine ended the match with two deuce sets in a row. Pepperdine led by three points once in the first set, other than that one lead, the rest of the set featured ties, one-point or two-point leads. The Waves were the ones to pull away late for the 25-23 win.
It was another tight set, with Pepperdine leading for the majority, but BYU hung around and eventually took its first lead 19-18. Pepperdine then battled back, and the teams went back-and-forth, eventually battling through three deuces. BYU had three set-point opportunities and Pepperdine had one. A kill by Felipe de Brito Ferreira ended the set, giving the Cougars a huge 28-26 victory to tie the match 1-1, and shift some momentum.
BYU got out to leads of 3-0, 7-2 and 8-3 and never looked back. Pepperdine got within one point at 13-12. BYU wouldn’t look back and led for the duration of the set, despite a late run from Pepperdine to get back to 24-23. On BYU’s fifth set point, they were finally able to finish off the Waves on a Zach Eschenberg kill to win the set 25-23.
The fourth set felt very similar to the third, with BYU keeping a lead for the majority, but once again the Waves got things close late with a 7-2 run to tie things up at 21-21. The set remained tied at 23-23 and again at 24-24. An error from the Waves finally gave the Cougars a 26-24 victory.
The Cougars next return to action Thursday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb. 20 for a two-game series against Grand Canyon in the Smith Fieldhouse. Both games will be broadcast on BYUtv.
No. 1 BYU to Host No. 7 Pepperdine in Two-Match Series
PROVO, Utah – The No. 1 BYU men's volleyball team is set to host the No. 7 Pepperdine Waves Friday, Feb. 12, and Saturday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse.
BYU (1-1) will welcome Pepperdine (2-0) to Provo for a pair of matches this weekend. Both games will be broadcast on BYUtv and available on the BYUtv App.
The Waves lead the overall series 34-32. BYU is 11-25 when playing in Malibu but the Cougars own the series at home 21-9. The last time these two teams faced off was Feb. 8, 2020, in the Smith Fieldhouse. That BYU victory marked Coach Olmstead's 100th win with the program.
BYU is currently 1-1 after splitting with UCLA at home. Despite the lone loss, the Cougars remain the No. 1 team in the country after this week’s NVA/ AVCA Division I coaches poll. For the first time this season, first-place votes were tied 8-8 between BYU and the University of Hawai'i. UH has not played any matches yet this season.
Senior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez is coming off of a career week, taking home two player of the week awards; MPSF Offensive Player of the Week and AVCA DI Player of the Week. These are BYU’s first awards for the 2021 season.
The Cougars currently sit at number four in MPSF conference rankings. Pepperdine leads, followed by UCLA, Grand Canyon then BYU. This year, MPSF rankings are determined by win percentage as each team will only be playing in-conference opponents during the regular season.