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.

Set One

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.

Set Two

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. 

Set Three

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.