BYU mens volleyball vs. UCSB 06

Brigham Young University head coach Shawn Olmstead claps after the point from the Cougars during a game between the BYU Cougars and the UCSB Gauchos held at Smith Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

PHOENIX – No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball swept Grand Canyon (25-22, 25-18, 28-26) on Friday at the GCU Arena to remain undefeated.

“I’m really, really proud of our guys for what they did tonight,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “They played really well tonight against a good team on the road. It was a total team effort from start to finish.”

Winning their first 13 matches of the season, the Cougars are off to their second-best start in program history. The 13 consecutive victories tie the third-best win streak by a BYU team in the rally era. With the sweep over the Lopes, the Cougars have won their first three matches of MPSF play to remain atop the league standings.

Outside hitter Zach Eschenberg led the team with 10 kills on a .333 clip while adding two blocks and a pair of digs. Opposite hitter Alex Ah Sue had a team-high hitting percentage of .438 to record a season-high nine kills. The sophomore added four digs and a career-high two aces as well. Outside hitter Davide Gardini contributed nine kills, six digs and four blocks while middle blocker Branden Oberender totaled six blocks to match his career high.

Ah Sue served a pair of aces to give BYU (13-0, 3-0 MPSF) an early 5-2 lead in the first set. Grand Canyon (9-3, 2-1) answered with a 6-1 run to claim an 8-6 edge. An Ah Sue kill followed by a block by Felipe de Brito Ferreira and Gardini tied the game at 12-all. After falling behind three points, the Cougars retook the lead, 20-19, behind kills by Gardini and Miki Jauhiainen. Oberender connected on his third kill of the set to give BYU the 25-22 win.

The two teams went back and forth to start the second set before kills by Gardini and Jauhiainen fueled a 4-0 run to put the Cougars up 11-7. Setter Wil Stanley had three blocks, including a solo block, to help BYU outscore the Lopes 6-2 and go up by eight points, 17-9. The Cougars capitalized on several Grand Canyon errors to maintain control late in the set with an Ah Sue kill ending the second game, 25-18.

Two kills by Eschenberg helped BYU take a 4-2 advantage to start the third set. An Ah Sue kill and Oberender’s first career ace increased the Cougars’ lead to 7-3. After both teams traded points, the Lopes used a 6-2 run to bring the score within one point, 14-13. Consecutive kills by Eschenberg gave BYU a 22-20 edge as the teams continued to battle. Grand Canyon fought back to take a 23-22 lead before another Eschenberg kill evened the score at 23-23. After each team exchanged points, a kill by Gardini set up match point for the Cougars. The outside hitter forced a bad set on his ensuing serve to clinch the sweep for BYU, 28-26.

The Cougars will return home for a pair of conference matches at the Smith Fieldhouse next week. BYU will play Concordia on Thursday before facing USC on Feb. 22.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!