IRVINE, Calif. — Gabi Garcia Fernandez’s career-high 31 kills were not enough to save No. 10 BYU men’s volleyball, as they fell in five sets (25-20, 25-27, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13) to Concordia Irvine on the road Thursday.
Garcia Fernandez had the fourth-most kills in a match in BYU history, and the most since Ben Patch had 32 in 2016. He added seven digs and four blocks on his career night. Davide Gardini had 20 kills in match to go along with 10 digs and a career-high six blocks. Zach Hendrickson led the team in digs with 11, while Cyrus Fa’alogo had 42 assists.
After an early 8-5 lead for the Eagles in set five, the Cougars rallied back to tie it at 8. Gardini’s 20th kill of the night gave BYU an 11-10 lead soon after. A kill gave CUI match point at 14-13 and forced BYU’s final timeout. An error on the Cougars then gave the Eagles the set and the match, 15-13.
BYU (12-9, 6-4 MPSF) had a 5-2 lead early in the first set, but the Eagles (13-15, 2-7 MPSF) came back to tie it at 7. CUI was able to get out to a 12-10 lead and didn’t look back, going on to take the opening game, 25-20, on its fifth service ace. Gardini led the Cougars with six kills on a .625 hitting percentage after one set.
The Cougars caught fire from the service line in the second set with back-to-back aces by Fa’algo and Garcia Fernandez’s second of the night to take a 9-7 lead early. Garcia Fernandez then helped to extend the lead to 12-8 with his ninth kill of the evening and an assist on a triple block. An Eagle error widened the gap once again, 18-12, and Garcia Fernandez continued his kill streak to reach double digits late in the period. The Eagles brought it back within one, 22-21, and then a service error allowed them to tie it at 23. BYU was able to hold on and win the second set, 28-26.
Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga got his first ace of the match early in the third set to give BYU a 9-6 lead. The Eagles took a brief lead, 10-9, before the Cougars re-established the lead, 17-14. The Eagles once again kept it close, however, and tied it again at 19 to force a BYU timeout. A pair of kills from Garcia Fernandez gave BYU some breathing room, 24-21, and put him over the 20-kill threshold for the seventh time this season. Gardini’s ninth kill of the match gave BYU the set, 25-22, to go up 2-1 in the match.
Gardini entered double-digit kills early in the fourth set as BYU got out to a 7-5 lead. Fa’agata-Tufuga got his first kill of the night to extend the lead to five, 11-6. The Eagles came back to tie it at 12, and kept it close before taking a 23-21 lead later in the set. CUI then got its 11th service ace of the match to take the fourth set, 25-21 and force a fifth game.
BYU stays in California to take on No. 8 USC on Saturday at 7 p.m. PDT.