BYU falls to Hawaii in 2021 NCAA title match
COLUMBUS, Ohio — BYU men’s volleyball fell 3-0 in National Championship match against Hawaii (21-25, 19-25, 16-25) Saturday night.
“Hats off to the University of Hawaii,” said head coach Shawn Olmstead. “They were a little more composed from the service line and in reception and, for some reason, we just seemed to get a little rattled. Credit to them.”
Senior Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars in kills with 12, hitting .286. Davide Gardini and Zach Eschenberg each had seven kills. Felipe de Brito Ferreira, Eschenberg and Garcia Fernandez each put up four block assists out of BYU’s 7.5 total. Graduate setter Wil Stanley had 29 assists in the final match of his career.
BYU opened strong defensively with two big blocks out of the middle by Miki Jauhiainen and Garcia Fernandez to put the Cougars up 2-0. By the 15-point media timeout, five of BYU’s 12 points were directly from Hawaii service errors. Teilon Tufuga scored BYU’s first ace of the game with a serve off the tape to tie the game 17-17. BYU reclaimed the lead 19-18 off of a wide shot from the Rainbow Warriors and Garcia Fernandez back to serve. With the Cougars on a roll, Hawaii called a critical timeout. BYU hitting and service errors after the timeout gave UH the advantage to finish the set. Hawaii won 25-21.
Hawaii started set two with their offensive attack, serving an immediate ace. Eschenberg came through with a vengeance hitting back-to-back-to-back kills, Stanley being sure to set the hot hand. BYU had their game-high 15 kills and .345 hitting percentage in set two, compared to Hawaii’s nine. Despite strong swings, service reception struggles for the Cougars continued and BYU was down 15-8 by the media timeout. Back into the game, the Cougars went on a 3-0 scoring run forcing a Rainbow Warrior timeout at 12-17. The ‘Bows timeout proved advantageous for them with a three-in-a-row ace run by Rado Parapunov at 14-23. Stanley stepped in with a necessary BYU ace to hold off one more UH set point, 16-23. Hawaii would finish the set with a kill, winning 25-19.
UH immediately aced the Cougars, scoring twice on serves within their first four points. The Cougars called timeout at 4-8 hoping to gain momentum back. The big hitters of the night, Parapunov and Garcia Fernandez, stayed even, both hitting 10-2-20 at this point in set three. The Cougars went on another 3-0 scoring run, coming up slightly short at 9-12. After a challenged play over a touch by the BYU block, the call was overturned in Hawaii's favor changing the score from 16-20 to 15-21. With this call, Hawaii had just enough room to safely close out the championship. UH played confidently to the last point with a statement kill, winning 25-16.
For six of the seven BYU seniors, this game represented the final time they would put on the white and blue. Garcia Fernandez, de Brito Ferreira, Eschenberg, Zach Hendrickson and Stanley all made the trip to Columbus, with Cyrus Fa’alogo staying home due to injury.
“I’m super proud of these guys, and I’m confident that they know who they are," Olmstead said. "They're learning that individually, and they learned it as a team. I’m proud of who they’ve been and what they've represented. This group of guys will rank at the top of my list, and I’m appreciative of the fact that they’ve given us a chance to be their coaches and to put some faith and trust in us."
At the conclusion of the tournament Stanley and Garcia Fernandez were named to the all-tournament team.
No. 2 BYU to face No. 1 Hawaii in 2021 National Championship match
COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 2 BYU will face No. 1 Hawaii in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship Saturday at 6 p.m. MST in Columbus, Ohio.
After trading the No. 1 and No. 2 spots many times since January 2020, this national championship match has been much anticipated. This is the first meeting of the Cougars and Rainbow Warriors in the 2021 season and their first meeting ever in the NCAA tournament. In their most recent contest, UH and BYU split the series March 5 and 6, 2020 on the Island. BYU swept Hawaii on night one, then fell in five sets on night two.
“When the pandemic started last year and the championship was cancelled, BYU and Hawaii were No. 1 and No. 2, and that’s our position right now," said BYU middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira. "We are in position to finally close that deal, so we’ve been working hard, and we’ve kept working hard for two straight years. Now we finally get the opportunity to get to this final. We’re excited to play. We can’t wait.”
BYU leads 42-22
NCAA Tournament appearances:
BYU - 10 (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021)
Hawai’i - 7 (1995, 1996, 2002, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021)
NCAA Tournament championships:
BYU - 3 (1999, 2001, 2004)
Hawai’i - 1 (2002)
NCAA Tournament finals appearances:
BYU - 8 (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2021)
Hawai’i - 4 (1996, 2002, 2019, 2021)
No. 2 BYU Cougars (20-3, 19-3 MPSF)
BYU received a first round bye to the seven-team NCAA Tournament after beating Pepperdine in the April 24 MPSF Championship. The Cougars handled Lewis in the NCAA Tournament semifinals Thursday, taking them in four sets (25-22, 25-15, 26-28, 25-20). As a team BYU hit .354 (53-18-99), had 50 assists, 10 blocks and seven aces.
On the national level, the Cougars rank second behind Hawaii in hitting percentage (BYU .349, UH .359), third in blocks per set, above Hawaii at fourth (BYU 2.769, UH 2.766), and third in aces per set (1.76).
First team All- American Gabi Garcia Fernandez is now only two aces away from taking the all-time BYU career ace record after scoring two aces against Lewis.
No 1. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (16-1, 10-0 Big West)
Despite losing in the Big West semifinal game to UC San Diego, Hawaii received an at-large bid to the national tournament. The No. 1 ranked Rainbow Warriors only dropped one match this season, an impressive resume that claimed the No. 1 seed.
Hawaii defeated fellow Big West opponent, UC Santa Barbara in the national semifinal match on Thursday. The ‘bows swept the Gauchos 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-23) to earn their right to the title match.
UH brings five All-Americans to the contest, same as BYU. Rado Parapunov, Patrick Gasman, Gage Worsley, Colton Cowell and Jakob Thelle for UH match up with Garcia Fernandez, Wil Stanley, Davide Gardini, Felipe de Brito Ferreira and Zach Eschenberg for BYU. Parapunov, who was named the 2021 NCAA National player of the Year, plays the same position as 2020 National Player of the Year, Gabi Garcia Fernandez.
“Having both of them play is going to be exciting,” said BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead. “ Rado’s a lefty, and Gabi’s right handed, so it's a bit of a different look, but both those guys are going use their arms to get their teams out of trouble, and we’ll rely on them a lot. They’re two big, physical guys who will be carrying those loads for their teams all night. It’ll be a nice matchup.”
Statistically, Hawaii leads the nation in three categories: kills per set (13.73), hitting percentage (.359) and assists per set (12.53)
There are five players hailing from the Aloha State between Hawaii and BYU.
“I played with Colton (Cowell) in club, I played with Kanai (A’kana) in high school and Alaka’i (Todd) in high school," said BYU's Oahu born Wil Stanley. "It’s fun to go out and play volleyball with your friends. Being from these small places, and now being able to play on the big stage, is something that we always dreamed of as kids.”
The national championship match, two years in the making, will begin Saturday at 6 p.m. MST from the Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Follow the team @byuvolleyball