No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball took down No. 3 UC Santa Barbra in five sets (23-25, 25-22, 20-25, 28-26, 15-11) at the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday to stay perfect on the year.
“I’m really proud of the guys, especially in a match where we didn’t necessarily play our best,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “A lot of credit goes to our opponent, they got our guys flustered. It’s a good learning experience for the guys and I’m happy with how they performed under pressure.”
In the fifth and deciding set, two kills by Zach Ecshenberg and a solo block from Gabi Garcia Fernandez fueled a 7-0 run to put the Cougars up 11-4. The Gauchos answered with a 6-1 run to bring the score within two points, 12-10. A kill by Felipe de Brito Ferreira forced match point before a Garcia Fernandez ace completed the comeback, 15-11
Junior opposite hitter Fernandez moved up to No. 2 on BYU’s top 10 all-time aces list (rally era) with 118 career aces. The junior passed Brenden Sander (116) to move into second and now trails Taylor Sander’s 182 career aces. Garcia Fernandez also posted his third-straight double-double with 12 kills and 10 digs to go along with two solo blocks and four service aces.
Eschenberg finished with 12 kills on a .333 clip, seven digs, two aces and a team-high four blocks while outside hitter Davide Gardini had 12 kills, nine digs and an ace. In addition, de Brito Ferreira had nine kills hitting .467. Setter Wil Stanley recorded his third double-double of the season with 38 assists and 11 digs and libero Mitchel Worthington ended with seven digs and a career-high seven assists.
The first set was tightly contested as neither BYU (10-0) or UCSB (6-2) could gain an edge. Back-to-back blocks by Miki Jauhiainen and Eschenberg gave the Cougars their biggest lead at 8-5. Both squads battled back and forth before the Gauchos took the first set, 25-23.
Gardini dropped a kill to give BYU an 18-15 edge in Set 2. Kills by Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and de Brito Ferreira clinched the set for the Cougars, 25-22.
Both teams continued to trade blows in the third set with Garcia Fernandez posting three kills and a solo block to help BYU to a 13-10 lead. Following a 15-15 tie, the Gauchos outscored the Cougars 10-5 to claim the third set.
De Brito Ferreira dropped four kills and two block assists while Garcia Fernandez had two service aces and three kills to lead BYU in the fourth game. Neither team could find separation throughout the entire set with the score eventually being knotted up at 25. The Cougars capitalized on two UCSB errors before a Garcia Fernandez ace gave BYU the 28-26 win to force a fifth set.
BYU will remain at home to open MPSF play against No. 8 UCLA on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse.