Cougars fall 3-1 to Bruins in Final Four
LOS ANGELES – BYU men’s volleyball fell in four sets (25-22, 24-26, 29-27, 25-19) to host UCLA Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
“Congrats to UCLA for advancing and moving on,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I don’t know if I have the exact words for these guys, but I’m proud of them. To think that this group is even here in this moment right now is incredible. I’m glad that they were able to be here.”
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars with 19 kills to go with nine digs. Leo Durkin set the team with 47 assists and contributed 10 digs for a double-double. Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga collected 11 kills off the bench, while Brenden Sander and Price Jarman added 10 and six, respectively.
BYU (22-7) got the first point of the first set with a kill from Fernandez. UCLA (26-7) inched ahead at 6-4 with a block, but back-to-back kills by Cyrus Fa’alogo and Fernandez pushed the Cougars in front 10-9. The Bruins went on a 4-1 run to get ahead 15-14, and consecutive kills from UCLA forced Olmstead to take a timeout with BYU trailing 20-18. The Bruins continued to maintain their advantage from there, taking the set 25-22 on a Cougar attack error.
A dump kill from Durkin evened the score at 5-5 to start the second set. BYU took the lead again at 12-11 following a Felipe de Brito Ferreira solo block. A kill from Fernandez kept the Cougars in the lead at 17-16, but the Bruins scored four of the next six points to take a 21-20 edge. UCLA had set point at 24-23, but three-straight Fernandez kills gave BYU the set 26-24 to even the match.
The Bruins jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the beginning of the third set, forcing a Cougar timeout along the way. Fa’agata-Tufuga scored three-straight points with kills to keep BYU in the set, trailing 6-5. Sander picked up a pair of kills to push the Cougars in front 9-8. BYU increased its lead to 13-10 following a kill from Ferreira, but UCLA came back to reclaim the advantage at 16-15 after consecutive aces. A 4-1 Cougar run, capped off by a Sander kill, pushed BYU back in front at 20-18. The Cougars had set point three times in a tight battle down the stretch before the Bruins ultimately prevailed to take the set 29-27.
UCLA went up 5-2 early in the fourth set and stayed ahead 10-7 after a pair of kills. BYU got within a point, trailing 10-9, but the Bruins quickly scored the next three points to go up by four, 13-9. The Cougars called timeout to regroup after trailing 19-15, but it wasn’t enough as the Bruins went on to take the set 25-19 on an ace, winning the match 3-1 on their home court.
The Cougars finish the season having advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament for third-straight season. Heading into next season, the Cougars will look to replace three starters—Durkin, Jarman and Sander—from this year's MPSF regular-season and tournament champion team.