PROVO, Utah – Gabi Garcia Fernandez helped No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball past USC in four sets (23-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-21) Thursday evening at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“Gabi had an incredible serving game tonight,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Five aces is big time. That was huge for us. I like that he's getting more and more confident there."
Fernandez led the Cougars with 14 kills, five aces and contributed seven digs. Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga added 13 kills and two digs. Miki Jauhiainen and Leo Durkin both led the team with five blocks apiece. Brenden Sander added nine kills, seven digs and four blocks in the win.
The Cougars (18-4, 8-0 MPSF) and Trojans (5-15, 1-6 MPSF) traded blows in the first set, with neither team taking more than a one-point lead. A Sander ace then brought BYU ahead 10-9. The Trojans responded with a 5-0 run to earn a 14-10 lead. A kill by Felipe de Brito Ferreira tied the set at 16-all. USC regained the lead until a block from Ferreira, Fernandez and Fa’agata-Tufuga tied it up 22-22. However, it wasn't enough as the Trojans won the close set 25-23.
The Cougars went on an early 6-0 run in the second set to secure an 8-3 lead. A Fernandez ace, his second ace of the match, brought BYU up 13-7. A 4-1 run, including two kills from Fernandez, pushed the Cougars on a 4-1 rally to make it 23-14. BYU ended the set 25-16 on a USC service error.
The Cougars and Trojans traded blows in the third set as a kill from Sander tied things up at 4-4. A 5-0 run, including Fernandez’s third ace of the match, brought BYU in front, 13-9. Two-consecutive Trojan errors forced USC to take a timeout as BYU led 21-17. A kill from Fernandez ended the set 25-23.
Fernandez’s fourth ace of the match helped the Cougars to an early 4-1 lead in the fourth set. BYU maintained the advantage until the Trojans tied it up again at 9-9. Back-to-back Fa’agata-Tufuga kills, however, propelled the Cougars on a 5-0 rally to go up 19-15. Another ace from Fernandez helped BYU on a 4-0 run to get to match point. USC staved off three points before the Cougars ultimately took the set and match 25-21.
The Cougars return to the Smith Fieldhouse to face Concordia Irvine Thursday, Mar. 29, at 7:00 p.m. MDT. The match will be televised live on BYUtv.