The old line “to the victors go the spoils” won’t hold up for spring college sports awards since nobody got to compete for a title.
Instead, the awards will be based on pure statistics and passing the eye test.
The BYU men’s volleyball team has plenty of eye-popping performances and standouts during the virus-shortened 2020 season.
Cougar junior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez, sophomore outside hitter Davide Gardini and senior setter Wil Stanley were named to the All-America First Team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association while senior outside hitter Zach Eschenberg was chosen for honorable mention.
This marks the second time in program history and the first time since 2001 that three Cougars have been named AVCA first-team All-Americans in one season. That year, BYU won its second national title by sweeping UCLA with outside hitter Mike Wall, setter Hector Lebron and middle blocker Scott Bunker earning first-team honors.
And more good news: Even though Stanley and Eschenberg are seniors, they will both likely be back next season since their final year was shortened by the coronavirus. Garcia Fernandez is a junior and Gardini is a sophomore, so all four All-Americans could be back in a BYU uniform in 2021 for another run at a championship.
Garcia Fernandez, an AVCA second-team All-American in 2018 and 2019, was in the midst of an incredible junior campaign before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 MPSF Player of the Year and three-time All-MPSF First Team selection averaged 5.46 points per set and .918 aces per set to lead the NCAA in both categories.
Even with six regular-season matches and the postseason canceled, the opposite hitter managed to tally 56 aces to break the BYU single-season aces record while only recording 53 service errors. He ended the season as one of the best all-around players in the nation, ranking 11th in kills per set (4.00), 19th in blocks per set (1.00), 23rd in attacks per set (7.98) and 25th in hitting percentage (.343).
Garcia-Fernandez will also be a leading candidate for national Player of the Year, which will be announced Thursday.
An AVCA All-America honorable mention honoree as a freshman, Gardini put together a strong sophomore season to become one of the top players in the country. The outside hitter finished the season ranked 18th in hitting percentage (.370), 19th in points per set (4.31), 21st in kills per set (3.61) and 25th in digs per set (1.97).
Stanley ranked third among all setters in the NCAA with an average of 10.74 assists per set to receive his first All-America selection. The setter’s 655 total assists helped the Cougars rank second in the nation with a .358 hitting percentage. Stanley was a strength defensively for BYU as he was second on the team in digs per set (1.75) while averaging .689 blocks per set.
Eschenberg had a breakout senior season to collect his first AVCA All-America recognition. The outside hitter was third on the team in hitting percentage (.300), kills per set (2.40), points per set (2.95), attacks per set (5.45), and aces per set (.218). He also averaged .636 blocks per set to help BYU lead the nation in the category (2.95).
The Cougars finished the shortened season with a 17-1 record and No. 1 national ranking. BYU also boasted a 12-1 record against ranked opponents while playing the toughest schedule in the NCAA with a .678 cumulative opponent winning percentage.
On Wednesday, the AVCA will select its national coach of the year and BYU’s Shawn Olmstead will certainly be a candidate. The last Cougar coach to win the award was Chris McGown in 2013. His father, the legendary Carl McGown, won it twice (1999, 2001).