Garcia Fernandez breaks single-season aces record in five-set loss to No. 1 Hawai’i
HONOLULU – Gabi Garcia Fernandez recorded his 56th ace of the year to break the program’s single-season record as No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a five-set thriller to No. 1 Hawai’i (25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 17-19) on Friday.
"I'm unbelievably proud of the team tonight for leaving it all out on the court and for putting their heart and soul into the match," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "A few plays went Hawai'i's way and they came out victorious. I really can't express how proud I am of each of the boys and what they put out tonight. I told them that both matches this weekend were a success. We were able to see some growth and make some improvements and that is what it's all about."
Following an eight-ace performance the previous night, Garcia Fernandez finished with three aces to break the program record for most aces by a BYU player in a single season. Taylor Sander set the previous record in 2014 when he finished the year with 55 aces. Garcia Fernandez still has six more matches in the regular season plus postseason play to build on his total.
"What an accomplishment this is for Gabi," Olmstead said. "It's impressive considering how much of the season we still have ahead of us and how much he can still continue to improve. It is exciting whenever you can accomplish something like this and have your name next to some of the greats in BYU volleyball history."
One night after the Cougars (17-1, 6-0 MPSF) handed the Rainbow Warriors (15-1, 0-0 BWC) their first loss of the season, Hawai’i returned the favor in a comeback victory in front of a soldout Stan Sheriff Center to end BYU's undefeated season. The 17-straight victories go down as the second-best start to a season in program history as well as the second-best win streak in the rally era.
Garcia Fernandez led the team with 21 kills on a .405 clip while filling the stat sheet with eight digs and five blocks. Davide Gardini had 17 kills and matched his career-high of 12 digs to record a double-double while totaling a career-high six blocks. Zach Eschenberg finished with 14 kills to match his career-high and Branden Oberender ended with a career-high 10 kills on a .533 clip. Wil Stanley totaled 57 assists as well as eight digs while Miki Jauhiainen ended with a season-high nine blocks.
Kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and Jauhiainen put BYU up 8-5 over Hawai’i to begin the first set. Gardini added a pair of kills as the Cougars increased their advantage to 15-9. After the Rainbow Warriors brought the score within four points, kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and Oberender brought the score to 20-14. Hawai’i rattled off three-straight points to come within three, 20-17. BYU answered with three consecutive points of their own before a Gardini kill ended the set, 25-20.
The Rainbow Warriors jumped out to a 6-3 lead to start the second game. The two teams traded points with a pair of kills by Eschenberg and Garcia Fernandez keeping the score within three points, 15-12. Hawai’i used a 3-0 run after the media timeout to go up 18-12. A Garcia Fernandez ace and three kills by Oberender fueled an 8-1 BYU run as the Cougars stormed back to reclaim the lead 21-20. A dump by Stanley and two kills by Garcia Fernandez finished off the comeback to give BYU the 25-22 win.
Hawai’i got off to another hot start to open the third set taking an 8-3 lead. Kills by Garcia Fernandez and Eschenberg kept the score within five, 15-10. Trailing 19-10, a Jauhiainen kill and a block by Eschenberg and Jauhiainen brought the Cougars within six points, 20-14. Kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez, and Jauhiainen along with three UH errors closed the deficit to 22-20. The Rainbow Warriors held off the rally to claim the third game, 25-22.
Gardini recorded a kill and an ace as BYU trailed Hawai’i 7-5 in the fourth set. Both teams exchanged points with Gardini adding two more kills to tie the game at 11-all. An ace by Garcia Fernandez gave the Cougars a one-point edge, 12-11. The two teams continued to battle back and forth with a block by Gardini and Oberender keeping BYU in control, 19-18. The Rainbow Warriors outscored the Cougars 7-4 to take the fourth game, 25-23.
Garcia Fernandez and Gardini each connected on kills to tie the fifth set at 2-2. Hawai’i outscored BYU 5-1 to take a four-point advantage, 7-3. A solo block by Garcia Fernandez followed by a block by Gardini and Jauhiainen brought the Cougars within two, 9-7. Two more blocks by BYU tied the score at 9-9. A kill by Garcia Fernandez followed by his third ace of the night extended the Cougars’ lead to 13-11. The Rainbow Warriors answered with three-consecutive points to take back the lead, 14-13. Kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and Gardini extended the game while Hawai’i capitalized on BYU errors to secure the comeback win.
The Cougars will resume MPSF play next week against No. 13 Stanford on Friday, March 13, at 6 p.m. PDT. The match will be streamed on the Stanford live stream located on Pac-12.com.