No. 8 BYU battles against No. 5 GCU, falls in five sets


PHOENIX — No. 8 BYU men’s volleyball hung tough against No. 5 GCU in a five-set match in a BYU-friendly GCU Arena with a large amount of BYU fans in it Saturday evening, but the Lopes eventually came out on top 3-2 (25-22, 17-25, 25-19, 17-25, 15-17), needing extra points in the final game.

The Cougars (10-6) are now 2-4 in MPSF play after playing two top-five schools on the road.

The GCU Lopes (16-1) registered a season-high 12 aces while the Cougars put up five of their own. The two top-10 programs matched fairly evenly in hitting percentages as GCU finished with a .321 clip and BYU with a .299 clip. BYU was led by sophomore outside hitter Luke Benson who had a career-high performance, with 16 kills on a .244 clip.

Set One

The Cougars served well in set one, totaling three aces. On Friday against GCU, BYU only had one ace during the entire match. Teon Taylor recorded a kill followed by a solo block for an 8-7 BYU score. A service ace by Benson, the first of the night from either team, preceded a media timeout at 15-12. Kupono Browne came off the bench and recorded BYU’s second ace, taking the score to 17-16 for the Cougars. Another ace by Ramanis forced a GCU timeout at 21-19. The Cougars won the first set 25-22 off a GCU service error. 

Both teams hit a .310 clip in set one, with BYU totaling 13 kills. The Cougar defense shined with three blocks compared to GCU’s one.

Set Two

Gavin Julien, Trent Moser and Benson picked up kills, with the score at 3-2 for BYU. The Lopes took control of the second set, reaching a four point lead at 15-11. BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead took a timeout when the score reached 20-15 in favor of GCU. The Lopes went on a 4-0 run to close set two at 25-17.

GCU totaled 16 kills in the second set, led by Christian Janke who had five of them. He would go on to lead all players in kills with 17. In set two, the Lopes also hit a .609 clip.

Set Three

Ramanis got BYU’s first two points of set three for an early 2-1 lead. Moser and Taylor got in on the action with a block for BYU to take a 4-3 lead. Benson recorded his second ace of the night for the score to reach 8-7 in favor of GCU. The Cougars would then go on a 6-0 run courtesy of BYU’s blockers. A solo block by BYU’s starting setter Noa Haine gave BYU an edge at 11-10, followed by another solo block for Ramanis.

With the score at 13-10 for BYU, the Lopes took a timeout. The Cougars got ahead by as many as five points at 20-15, urging the Lopes to take a second timeout. The third set closed 25-19 off a GCU service error.

The Cougars had six total blocks in set three, with GCU registering just one. BYU also held GCU to a .069 clip.

Set Four

A kill by Julien gave the Cougars a small lead at 6-5. BYU was struggling to get the ball over the net, as GCU took a commanding 15-11 lead. Benson put a 6-0 run by GCU to a halt with a kill, taking the score to 19-12 for the Lopes. GCU would win set four 25-17 off a service ace, tying the game at 2-2.

GCU totaled 16 kills compared to BYU’s nine in the fourth set.

Set Five

The Cougars came out the gates by going on a 3-0 run. GCU tied it at 5-5, looking to go on a run of their own, but a service error gave BYU a 6-5 edge. A long rally followed, which ended in a point for BYU off a Julien kill. 

BYU was holding a lead for the entirety of set five until the Lopes took a late 11-10 advantage after a BYU attack error. BYU would have went up 14-13 and had a match point, but a GCU challenge reversed the call and put the Lopes up 14-13 instead. Moser came right back with a kill to even the score at 14-14, forcing extra points. GCU would eventually win 17-15 off a BYU receiving error. 

The fifth set was tied six times, and both teams hit below a .200 clip.

Next week, the Cougars will return to Provo to host No. 13 Ohio State on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s match will begin at 7 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse, with live coverage on the BYUtv app.