Cougars outlast Grand Canyon, 3-2
PROVO, Utah — BYU men’s volleyball outlasted Grand Canyon, 3-2 (25-27, 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 15-11), to win the second of four matches against the Lopes.
Zach Eschenberg led the way for the Cougars, finishing with a career-high 16 kills on a .361 clip. Eschenberg also tallied five digs and two blocks. Davide Gardini added a season-high 15 kills while also leading the team in digs (eight) and blocks (five). Gabi Garcia Fernandez ended the match with 14 kills and a season-high four aces to go with seven digs and three blocks. Will Stanley finished with five kills on a .833 hitting percentage with four digs, three blocks and team-high 51 assists. Miki Jauhiainen hit 1.000 on four kills while also tallying an assist, an ace, two digs and four blocks
Junior middle blocker Brandon Oberender came off the bench after an injury to Felipe de Brito Ferreira and contributed two aces, three blocks and a kill. His plays were momentum builders during tight points. "I thought he did an outstanding job to be honest." Said head coach Shawn Olmstead on Oberender "We've got total confidence and faith in 'B.O.' he's done great things for our team. Brandon came in and picked things up right where we left off. I thought he did a remarkable job."
BYU (5-1) held Grand Canyon (1-3) to a hitting percentage of .293, finishing with 31 digs and 11 blocks. Both teams ended the night with 60 kills and each of the first four sets were decided by just two points.
Garcia Fernandez started the match off strong with a kill and an ace to put the Cougars up 2-0. A pair of kills by Gardini and Stanley helped stretched the Cougar lead to four at 6-2, but GCU followed with a 7-2 run of their own to take a 9-8 lead. Garcia Fernandez’s fourth kill of the night was followed up with a pair of aces to give BYU a 12-10 advantage. A 4-1 GCU run brought the Lopes within one, 21-20, forcing a BYU timeout. Momentum stayed on the side of GCU as they pulled ahead 23-22. A kill by the Lopes’ Camden Gianni gave GCU a 26-25 advantage, and they capitalized, winning the set 27-25 off an attack error by the Cougars.
GCU jumped out to 7-3 lead to begin the second set. A service error by the Lopes coming out of a timeout helped get the Cougars back on track. BYU scored the next three points—each coming off attack errors—to lock the score at seven. Back-to-back kills by Eschenberg gave BYU its first lead of the set at 11-10. After BYU pulled ahead 14-13, GCU answered with a 6-2 run to go up by three, 19-16. The Cougars answered the call on the first three set point opportunities for the Lopes and took advantage of a GCU attack error to take a 27-26 lead. An ace by Gardini followed, winning the set for BYU, 28-26.
GCU took a 2-0 lead early on and held a consistent three-point lead until Eschenberg and Gardini combined for back-to-back kills to trim the Lopes’ lead to one, 12-11. A kill by Gardini and a GCU attack error tied the set at 13. After the Cougars were able to tie it at 16, a pair of kills by Christian Janke jumpstarted a 5-2 GCU run. Despite being able to tie the set six times, the Cougars never led, losing 25-23.
Gardini’s 11th kill of the match gave BYU its first lead of the fourth set at 6-5. Eschenberg followed up the kill with the Cougars’ eighth and ninth aces of the night to give BYU a 9-5 advantage. Ace number ten came by way of Garcia Fernandez to put BYU ahead, 13-9. It was his fourth ace of the match, setting a new season high. Eschenberg also set a season high with his 13th kill to put BYU up 16-13. BYU’s lead extended to five before a 5-1 Lopes run closed the gap to one at 22-21. Eschenberg tied a career high with his 14th kill to give BYU an opportunity to win the set at 24-22. The Cougars won 25-23 on a service error by GCU.
Eschenburg set a new career high with his 15th kill to put BYU up early, 3-2. Two service errors and an attack error extended the Cougar lead to three, 8-5. Three consecutive service errors between the two teams lead to a 11-7 BYU lead. The Cougars added an additional point on Gardini’s 15th kill of the match, setting a new season high for him. The Cougars won the set 15-11, never trailing, on the 21st service error of the night for the Lopes to win the match, 3-2.
The Cougars will play GCU for a third time on Thursday, Feb. 25 in Phoenix at 6:00 pm local time.