PROVO, Utah — No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball defeated USC in four sets (25-19, 25-21, 24-26, 25-20) on senior night Friday at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“What a wonderful group these guys are," said BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead. "After the match I told the seniors what they mean to this program and what they've accomplished. They've done some amazing things. After we lost the third set tonight I told the guys maybe it's not a bad thing that we get to play a little more volleyball. I thought we did a really good job staying the course and staying in this match. That's what great teams do."
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars (16-2, 15-2) with 13 kills on the match to go along with three blocks and three digs. Zach Eschenberg tallied 10 kills, four blocks, three digs and a pair of aces, while Miki Jauhiainen added seven kills and three blocks.
Felipe de Brito Ferreira contributed four kills and a team-high seven blocks. Davide Gardini and Wil Stanley each recorded four kills and six digs for BYU.
As a team, the Cougars notched a .310 hitting percentage while holding the Trojans (5-10, 5-10) to a .132 clip. BYU, now on an 11-game winning streak, doubled up USC in blocks with 14, compared to USC’s seven.
Teams traded points to start the set, as kills by Gardini and Garcia Fernandez tied things up at seven. USC went up 11-9, but a Trojan service error, a de Brito Ferreira and Eschenberg block and a de Brito Ferreira kill gave the Cougars a 12-11 lead. Three consecutive USC attack errors then put BYU up 16-13. Garcia Fernandez finished off an exciting back-and-forth rally with a kill down the line as the Cougars took a 21-16 advantage. Garcia Fernandez notched another kill, his fourth of the game, to seal the 25-19 set win for BYU.
The Cougars took an early 3-1 lead on a kill by Eschenberg before the Trojans tied the game at five. Both teams traded points until a Wil Stanley block followed by an ace by Stanley put BYU up 13-11. Consecutive USC attack errors and an Eschenberg kill gave the Cougars a 19-15 advantage. A Gardini kill followed by another pair of Trojan attack errors put BYU up five, 22-17. A kill by Eschenberg down the line gave BYU the 25-21 set win.
A de Brito Ferreira block capped a 3-0 BYU run and put the Cougars up 7-5. Garcia Fernandez then tallied a pair of crosscourt kills to give BYU a 10-8 advantage. USC fought back to take a 14-13 lead before the Cougars tallied seven unanswered points, highlighted by an Eschenberg ace and kills from Garcia Fernandez and de Brito Ferreira, to go up 20-14. An 8-2 Trojan run cut BYU’s lead to one, 22-21, before a Gardini kill put the Cougars up 23-21. Three straight USC points then gave the Trojans a 24-23 lead. BYU tied the game at 24 with a Garcia Fernandez kill, but two consecutive USC kills gave the Trojans set three, 26-24.
A pair of kills by Eschenberg gave the Cougars an early 6-5 lead. With the game knotted at nine later in the set, a Cole Paxson ace capped a 3-0 BYU run as the Cougars went up 12-9. BYU went up four, 18-14, following kills by Eschenberg, Wil Stanley and Jauhiainen. Kills by Eschenberg, de Brito Ferreira and a dump kill from Wil Stanley gave the Cougars a 22-17 advantage. Jauhiainen finished off the 25-20 set win for BYU with a kill down the line.
BYU travels to UCLA to take on the Bruins next Friday and Saturday, April 9-10, for the final two matches of the regular season. Both matches are set to begin at 5 p.m. PDT and will be broadcast live on byutv.org and the BYUtv App.