No. 2 BYU downs No. 1 Hawai’i in straight sets
HONOLULU – Opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez totaled eight aces as No. 2 BYU swept No. 1 Hawai’i (25-15, 25-17, 25-20) on Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center to become the nation’s last undefeated team.
"What an exciting match to be a part of," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "It’s hard to focus on one or two guys tonight when this was a complete team effort. Credit to each one of our guys who had a focus this week on consistent pressure and followed the plan. Gabi was confident from the service line and both of our outside hitters had great nights. Wil deserves a lot of credit for the decisions he made throughout the match."
The Cougars (17-0, 6-0 MPSF) handed the top-ranked Rainbow Warriors (14-1, 0-0 BWC) their first loss of the season. Under Olmstead, BYU is now 5-1 when playing a top-ranked team. Winning their first 17 matches of the year, the Cougars are within one win of matching the best start to a season in program history.
BYU finished the match with an exceptional .603 hitting percentage. It marked the second-best hitting percentage recorded by the Cougars in the rally era and the eighth-best percentage ever recorded by a team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Garcia Fernandez matched his career-high of eight aces while adding 13 kills on a .688 clip. The opposite hitter has now recorded the second-most aces in a match by a BYU player in the rally era for the second time this season. He has totaled 53 aces on the year and is within three aces of breaking the program record for most aces in a season.
Outside hitter Davide Gardini hit .750 and had 10 kills while outside hitter Zach Eschenberg also finished with 10 kills on a .500 clip. Setter Wil Stanley paced the team with 29 assists and six digs while Miki Jauhiainen contributed a match-high four blocks.
Garcia Fernandez recorded a kill and consecutive aces to give BYU an early 6-1 lead over Hawai’i in the first set. Gardini connected on his third and fourth kills of the game to increase the Cougars’ advantage to 10-3. A Stanley dump followed by kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and Gardini brought the score to 15-9. A block by Jauhiainen and Eschenberg put BYU up 21-13. Following a Jauhiainen solo block, Gardini’s sixth kill ended the set to give the Cougars the 25-15 win. BYU hit an errorless .706 in the opening game while totaling five team blocks to help hold the Rainbow Warriors to a .000 hitting percentage.
A pair of kills by Branden Oberender at the start of the second set gave the Cougars a 6-4 edge. After Hawai’i scored three-straight points to take a one-point lead, Garcia Fernandez answered with two kills and an ace to reclaim the advantage for BYU, 14-11. Eschenberg connected on three-consecutive kills to make the score 18-14. Gardini added two kills before Garcia Fernandez’s fourth ace of the match clinched the set for the Cougars, 25-17. BYU maintained its efficient attack with a .684 hitting percentage in the second game.
The two teams battled back and forth to open the third set with a Garcia Fernandez kill giving the Cougars a two-point edge, 8-6. Garcia Fernandez had a kill and three-straight aces to personally fuel a 4-0 run to increase the advantage to 13-8. Two kills by Eschenberg and an ace by Stanley helped BYU maintain control, 18-12. Garcia Fernandez added his eighth ace of the night before a kill by Stanley claimed the set and the sweep, 25-20.
The Cougars will face the Rainbow Warriors in the Stan Sheriff Center again Friday, March 6, at 7 p.m. HST. The match will be televised on Spectrum Sports and a live stream will be available on BigWest.tv.
No. 2 BYU set for showdown at No. 1 Hawai'i
PROVO, Utah – No. 2 BYU will face top-ranked Hawai'i in a pair of matches featuring the two remaining undefeated teams in men's volleyball March 5-6 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Winning their first 16 matches of the year, the Cougars (16-0, 6-0 MPSF) are in the midst of their second-best start to a season in program history as well as the second-best winning streak in the rally era. The Rainbow Warriors (14-0, 0-0 BWC) are also off to their second-best start having won all 14 of their matches so far this year. Last season, Hawai'i won its first 25 matches to set a program record before eventually losing to Long Beach State in the 2019 NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship.
The Cougars control the series with a 41-20 overall record over the UH. However, BYU is 14-14 when playing Hawai'i at the Stan Sheriff Center. Under head coach Shawn Olmstead, the Cougars are 5-2 against the Rainbow Warriors and are 3-0 when playing them in Honolulu.
Both teams have met as the two top-ranked teams in the regular season before. In 2001, second-ranked BYU hosted No. 1 Hawai'i for a pair of matches at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars swept the Rainbow Warriors in the first match before winning a five-set thriller the following night.
Since 2001, BYU is 19-10 when facing opponents ranked No. 1 in the country. In those 29 matches, the Cougars are 7-3 when ranked No. 2 heading into the matchup. Olmstead has led BYU to a 4-1 record against top-ranked teams, including winning all three matches played on the road.
The Cougars have played one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA DI-II so far this season with 11 of their 16 wins being against ranked teams. The Rainbow Warriors have faced their fair share of ranked opponents with six of their 14 victories coming against teams rated in the top 15.
BYU averages 3.01 blocks per set to lead the NCAA while Hawai'i ranks second with an average of 2.89 blocks per set. The Cougars remained second in the nation in hitting percentage (.351) while also ranking sixth in assists per set (12.18) and seventh in kills per set (12.89).
Opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez averages .840 aces per set to continue to lead the NCAA and is 11 aces away from setting the school record for the most aces recorded in a season. The junior also leads the nation with an average of 5.38 points per set. Setter Wil Stanley is averaging 10.74 assists per set to rank third in the country while middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira is seventh in blocks per set (1.282).
The Rainbow Warriors lead all teams in hitting percentage (.386), kills per set (13.84) and opponent hitting percentage (.171). Opposite hitter Rado Parapunov ranks fourth in the NCAA DI-II in kills per set (4.35) and points per set (5.18) to lead UH's attack. Middle blockers Patrick Gasman and Guilherme Voss anchor the Hawaii defense with averages of 1.32 and 1.18 blocks per set, respectively.
Hawai'i has remained atop the AVCA Coaches Poll all season while BYU has been ranked No. 2 the last eight weeks after being ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll.
The Cougars will be on the road all of March before returning to the Smith Fieldhouse for Senior Night against Grand Canyon on April 2.