BYU mens volleyball vs. UCSB 07

Brigham Young University outside hitter Zach Eschenberg (11) fist-bumps opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez (5) before 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

The No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team will likely be without two of its best players when it takes on Concordia Irvine and USC at the Smith Fieldhouse this week.

Junior opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, who is second in the country in points per set (5.47), didn’t make the trip to Arizona for the Cougars’ 3-0 sweep of Grand Canyon last Friday.

BYU coach Shawn Olmstead would not disclose the reason, only saying, “He’s part of our team. He is still a very huge part of our team. I’m not going to get into those things. We keep those issues pretty internal and we think that’s the right approach. We love Gabi and we’re excited for him to be a part of our team and that’s the way we’re going to move forward.”

Olmstead would not discuss when Garcia Fernandez would be available to return to the floor.

In the first set of that match at Grand Canyon, junior middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira injured his left leg and had to be helped from the court by his teammates. Olmstead said de Brito Ferreira was going through treatment and did not practice this week.

“We’re not certain when he comes back,” Olmstead said.

De Brito Ferreira leads the Cougars in block assists (49) and was named the MPSF Defensive Player of the Week on Feb. 10.

Sophomore opposite Alex Ah Sue and sophomore middle blocker Branden Oberender stepped into more prominent roles against Grand Canyon. Ah Sue had nine kills, hit .438 and contributed two aces and four digs. Oberender had four kills in five swings with no errors (.800) and led BYU with six block assists.

“I thought they played great,” Olmstead said. “They both did a remarkable job in the situation and both of those guys can play. We talk about that all the time in practice to be ready and available and they contributed a ton to our win last Friday.”

Concordia Irvine is led by former BYU player and coach Shawn Patchell. The Eagles are 1-2 in MPSF play and 6-8 overall after losses to Pepperdine (3-2) and UCLA (3-1) last week.

“Concordia always gives us their all,” Olmstead said. “Shawn gets the most out of those kids. They grind and are really competitive. They are really good defensively and on offense they are one of the better passing teams in our conference. The MPSF still stays strong. It’s a good volleyball conference and every match we go into is tough. It’ll be nice for our guys and they are excited to be home.”

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