PROVO, Utah – No. 5 BYU men’s volleyball powered past No. 8 Pepperdine in five sets (22-25, 27-29, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11) Thursday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“I’m proud of the guys for sticking to it,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Down two sets is not the most ideal place to be in a volleyball match, but we were able to rebound and play better than in the first two sets.”
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars with 18 kills and seven digs, while Brenden Sander added 17 kills on a .467 clip. Felipe de Brito Ferreira collected a career-high of 10 blocks and Leo Durkin had season-highs of 56 assists, six blocks and three kills.
A Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga kill and Fernandez service ace opened the fifth set and helped push BYU (13-4, 6-0 MPSF) ahead 5-2. Another Fernandez ace maintained a 10-6 Cougar lead, forcing Pepperdine (9-4, 3-2 MPSF) into a timeout. The Waves answered the momentum with blocks to tie the set at 10-all. A save by Erik Sikes and a block by Durkin, Ferreira and Sander pulled BYU ahead 13-10. Another Durkin and Ferreira block brought the Cougars to set point and a Miki Jauhiainen and Sander block closed the set 15-11 to bring BYU to a 3-2 match win.
Pepperdine jumped to a 4-1 lead early in the first set, but a kill and service ace by Fernandez brought BYU back in the game, down by just one at 4-3. While the Waves remained ahead, kills by Ferreira and Sander pulled the Cougars back within one, 15-14. BYU called a timeout down 20-18 and came back to score the next two points to tie the game, 20-all, with a Sander kill and Wil Stanley service ace. Errors from the Cougars allowed the Waves to jump ahead, and a Pepperdine kill solidified the set, 25-22.
A Fernandez kill opened the second set giving BYU the edge, but Pepperdine answered with kills to tie the set 3-all. A Sander kill and Wave errors helped BYU jump ahead 7-4 early in the set. A kill by Fa’agata-Tufuga and back-to-back Cougar blocks kept BYU in the lead 12-9. The Waves came back in the set and both teams were within two of each other, exchanging leads at the end of the set. Tied at points 24 through 27, the Cougars had four-straight set points, but the Waves ultimately took the set with a 29-27 win.
With Pepperdine opening the third set with an edge, a Sander kill and Fa’agata-Tufuga service ace tied the score at 4-all. Both teams stayed within a point of each other until Pepperdine took at two-point lead, 13-11, forcing BYU into a timeout. A block by Jauhiainen and Fernandez helped BYU back in the set at 15-all. Due to Pepperdine errors and another Jauhiainen and Fernandez block, BYU took an 18-15 advantage after a 5-0 run. The Waves chipped away at the Cougar lead, but a Fernandez kill brought BYU to set point and Sander closed the set, 25-23, with a kill.
Both teams were within a point of each other early in the fourth set until Pepperdine slipped ahead 9-6. A Sander and Ferreira kill then helped BYU tie the set 10-all. Back-to-back kills from Durkin pulled the Cougars ahead 13-11. A block by Fa’agata-Tufuga and Ferreira helped BYU get ahead 20-16 after a 7-1 run. A Sander kill brought the Cougars to set point, 24-21. BYU took the set 25-22 after a Pepperdine service error to take the match into a fifth set.
The Cougars remain at home to play No. 3 UCLA Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m. MST. Live stats are available on the men’s schedule page and the match will be streamed on TheW.tv.