PROVO, Utah — No. 1 seed BYU men’s volleyball defeated No. 4 Grand Canyon in straight sets (25-14, 25-19, 29-27) in the MPSF Tournament semifinals Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“It was a fun match,” said BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead. “Hats off to Grand Canyon. We expected it to be back-and-forth, and it was. I’m proud of our guys. We kept our cool through a few of those plays down the stretch that we needed to convert. It was a fun night to be a part of and to feel the energy.”
The win secured the Cougars (18-3) a spot in the conference championship game, which will take place tomorrow, April 24, at 7 p.m. MDT. BYU will face No. 3 seed Pepperdine (13-5), who swept their semifinal matchup with No. 2 UCLA earlier in the day. The Cougars will to win their eighth MPSF Tournament championship in program history and first since 2018.
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars with 12 kills on a .417 clip while also tallying a match-high four aces, all in the first set consecutively, and four blocks. Zach Eschenberg added 10 kills, five digs and four blocks, while Davide Gardini contributed eight kills, two aces, two digs and a pair of blocks.
Miki Jauhiainen recorded six kills for the Cougars, while Felipe de Brito Ferreira had four kills and a team-high seven blocks. Wil Stanley notched a match-high 35 assists, five digs and three blocks.
As a team, BYU hit at a .390 clip while holding the Antelopes (9-11) to a .188 hitting percentage. The Cougars tallied 11.5 blocks on the night compared to Grand Canyon’s five and had eight aces to the Antelopes’ three.
After trailing 3-2 early in the set, BYU used a 5-0 run highlighted by an Eschenberg kill and a de Brito Ferreira block to take a 7-3 advantage. The Cougars extended their lead to seven, 15-8, following an Eschenberg kill and blocks by Garcia Fernandez and de Brito Ferreira. Garcia Fernandez recorded four consecutive aces later in the set to put BYU up 20-9. The Cougars sealed the 25-14 set win following a kill from Garcia Fernandez and a Gardini block.
Teams traded points to start the set, with BYU taking a 10-9 lead following kills by Eschenberg, Jauhiainen, Gardini and de Brito Ferreira. Another Jauhiainen kill followed by a kill down the line and an ace from Gardini put the Cougars up four, 17-13. BYU maintained a comfortable lead, as Eschenberg tallied a kill down the line before a kill and a block by de Brito Ferreira gave the Cougars a 22-18 advantage. Gardini then recorded a kill, his fourth of the set, before Jauhiainen added one of his own as BYU took set two, 25-19.
Stanley tallied a kill before an ace from de Brito Ferreira put the Cougars up 7-4. A de Brito Ferreira kill then gave BYU a 15-12 lead, but four consecutive points from the Antelopes put Grand Canyon up 16-15. Jon Stanley tallied an ace before kills from Jauhiainen and Garcia Fernandez gave the Cougars a 19-18 advantage. A 4-0 Grand Canyon run, however, then put the Antelopes up 22-19. BYU fought back, as a Garcia Fernandez kill and a pair of de Brito Ferreira blocks tied the game at 23. Teams traded points into deuce territory, as a Gardini crosscourt kill put the Cougars up 26-25. Grand Canyon then went up 27-26 with a kill and a BYU net violation. The Cougars, however, came back to win the set 29-27 following a Gardini kill and a pair of kills by Garcia Fernandez.
BYU will take on No. 3 seed Pepperdine in the MPSF championship game tomorrow, April 23, at 7 p.m. MDT in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Waves defeated No. 6 Stanford 3-1 in the tournament quarterfinals and No. 2 UCLA 3-0 in the semifinals. Tomorrow’s match between the Cougars and Pepperdine will be streamed live on FloVolleyball.