No. 8 BYU holds on for five-set win vs. Mount Olive
All-American Davide Gardini on the BYU bench with his ankle wrapped needing crutches to move around is not a good sign for the eighth-ranked Cougars.
Gardini rolled his ankle in the first set on Thursday against Mount Olive – he came down on a teammate’s foot after jumping to block – and BYU was already playing without senior opposite Alex Ah Sue, who didn’t start and didn’t get into the rotation until the fifth set.
Crisis moment, indeed.
With Gardini and Ah Sue out, Cougar fans got a good look at an all-freshmen pin lineup of Miks Ramanis, Anthony Cherfan and Luke Benson. The youngsters showed off their skills and helped hold off a strong Mount Olive squad with a 3-2 (24-26, 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 15-12) victory in front of a crowd of 2,509 at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“Sometimes you’ve got to step up,” Ramanis said. “I thought I had to step up. All around we just decided we were committed to doing what we had to do. We didn’t let it rattle us that bad. We just said, ‘OK, next man up, then let’s get it done.”
BYU got off to a slow start in Set 5, falling behind 4-0.
“In the moment the heart rate is up,” Cougar coach Shawn Olmstead said. “My watch is beeping and telling me to calm down or take a seat or stop running, but the guys did it. They stayed the course.”
Ramanis said, “We really just decided on the bench that this was not the way we wanted things to go.”
BYU caught the Trojans at 7-7 on a combo block from Ramanis and Teon Taylor and eventually took a 13-11 lead when Jon Stanley – usually a designated server – tooled a swing off the Mount Olive block. A Trojan hitting error gave the Cougars match point. Mount Olive held off the end but at second match point, the triple block of Zeo Meyer, Stanley and Gavin Julien sent the ball straight down for the winner.
Ramanis finished with 23 kills, hitting .559. It was a career high for the freshman and also the most individual kills for a Cougar in a match since 2019. Cherfan had 12 kills (.320) and Benson 10 (.348) as BYU hit .402 for the match, with 52 assists and 16 digs from setter Zeo Meyer.
Mount Olive (2-1), which was picked to win Conference Carolinas this season, was led by Tobi Azeez with 17 kills. Trevor Treser had 12 digs for the Trojans.
The Cougars (3-2) had a pair of set points in the first set but couldn’t put the ball away. Mount Olive took Set 1 when Eric Visgitis killed a BYU overpass at 26-24. Ramanis started well, though, with eight kills in the first set.
BYU hit a sizzling .519 in Set 2, eventually taking a 15-11 lead when Cherfan got an out-of-system kill after some great Cougar defense. Branden Oberender killed an overpass to get BYU to set point and Cherfan’s pancake on a Mount Olive tip set up Ramanis to tool his shot off the block for a 25-19 victory to tie the match at 1-1.
Set 3 was tied at 15 when BYU took control, getting to 19-16 on a Ramanis block. Ramanis came out of the back row for set point at 24-20 and Meyer fired off an ace for the winner, giving the Cougars a 2-1 lead in the match.
Mount Olive took over Set 4 at 16-14 and the Cougars simply couldn’t catch the Trojans. An ace by Dominic Hagerty ended the set set at 25-22 to force a fifth and final set.
“I told the guys there was a lot of positives but I also said we’ve got to talk about the things that we’ve got to talk about,” Olmstead said. “You got your money’s worth in terms of team effort. But it’s not shocking that we’re going to go through these moments. The part that’s tough is, and I don’t think disappointing is the right word, because I’m never gonna be disappointed in my guys as long as their efforts there. We had way too many service errors (28) and we can’t allow that to happen here at home. We’re just giving away so many free points.”
The same two teams will meet Saturday at the Fieldhouse.