No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball traveled to Honolulu March 5-6 to face No. 1 Hawaii in the Stan Sheriff Center for two highly anticipated matches.
On Thursday, March 5, BYU swept Hawaii (25-15, 25-17, 25-20) to remain undefeated and bring its record to 17-0. The Cougars had a .603 hitting percentage, which is BYU’s best single-match percentage during the rally-scoring era. They also had 6.5 team blocks and 10 aces. Hawaii had a hitting percentage of .250, with 2.5 team blocks and four aces.
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars on Thursday with 21 points, eight aces, 13 kills and a .688 hitting percentage. Davide Gardini contributed 12 points and had a hitting percentage of .750, while Zach Eschenberg added 11 points and had a hitting percentage of .500. Miki Jauhiainen had the most blocks with four, and Wil Stanley led in digs with six.
BYU earned the first point of Thursday’s match off a kill by Gardini. Hawaii then earned a point before a kill by Garcia Fernandez started a five-point run for the Cougars, which featured two back-to-back aces by Garcia Fernandez and brought the score to 6-1. A kill by Stanley followed by a block by Stanley and Jauhiainen brought the score to 12-5. BYU maintained a solid lead for the rest of the set, and a kill by Gardini finished the set with BYU up 10 points.
A kill by Branden Oberender gave BYU the first point of the second set. An ace by Gardini gave BYU a two-point lead at 5-3, and the teams continued to trade points, resulting in several tied scores and lead changes. Back-to-back kills from Garcia Fernandez allowed the Cougars to gain their biggest lead of the set that far with the score at 14-11. Three kills in a row from Eschenberg brought the score to 18-14. The Cougars held onto the lead for the rest of the set, and an ace by Garcia Fernandez gave BYU the win with the score at 25-17.
BYU earned the first point of the third set after a Hawaii service error. The teams traded points for much of the set, but a kill followed by three aces in a row from Garcia Fernandez gave the Cougars a five-point lead with the score at 13-8. A kill by Eschenberg followed by an ace from Stanley and another kill from Eschenberg brought the score to 18-12 with BYU still in the lead. The Cougars maintained a lead for the remainder of the set, and a kill from Stanley secured BYU the win with the score at 25-20.
BYU fell to Hawaii the next night on March 6 in an intense five-set match (25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 17-19). BYU’s record is now 17-1, and Hawaii’s is 15-1, and the two teams are likely to remain No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. BYU had a hitting percentage of .329 and totaled 68 kills and 13.5 blocks during the match, while Hawaii had a .299 hitting percentage with 63 kills and 13 blocks. The five-set thriller featured several challenges from both coaches and some rotational errors from Hawaii that allowed the Cougars to gain some points.
Hawaii’s Rado Parapunov dominated the match, leading in number of kills, attacks and points. Garcia Fernandez was close behind and finished with 21 kills, 42 attacks and 27 points. He also had three aces and broke BYU’s record for most aces in a single season, totaling 56 aces this season. Gardini added 17 kills and 21 points as well as leading in digs, with 12 and earned six blocks. Eschenberg contributed 14 kills and 16.5 points, while Jauhiainen led with a .625 hitting percentage and nine blocks.
A kill by Jauhiainen earned BYU the first point of Friday’s first set. The teams traded points for much of the beginning of the set, but BYU earned three back-to-back points and gained a lead with the score at 8-5. BYU had another four-point scoring run thanks to two errors from Hawaii sandwiched by kills from Oberender, which brought the score to 17-9. A kill from Gardini finished the set and BYU won 25-20.
The Cougars earned the first point of the second set after an error from Hawaii, but Hawaii quickly bounced back and gained a lead. BYU was down six points with the score at 19-13, and Hawaii maintained a lead until five alternating kills from Oberender and Eschenberg brought BYU within one point at 21-20. The teams traded points for the remainder of the set, but three back-to-back points from the Cougars secured a BYU win with the score at 25-22.
The third set began with another Hawaii service error, but the Rainbow Warriors quickly gained a lead. Hawaii gained their biggest lead of the series with the score at 12-5 and maintained a solid lead throughout the set as BYU struggled to earn back-to-back points. A kill from Jauhiainen began the Cougars’ longest run of the set, bringing Hawaii’s lead down to two at 22-20. A kill by Gardini followed by a block by Stanley, Oberender and Gardini brought the score to 24-22 for Hawaii after the Rainbow Warriors earned more points, and Hawaii won the set with a score of 25-22.
Hawaii earned the first point of the fourth set and maintained a slim lead until an ace by Garcia Fernandez gave BYU its first lead of the set with the score at 12-11. The teams traded points for the remainder of the set, but Hawaii managed to win the set at 25-23.
The final set began with a kill from Gardini, which gave the Cougars the first point. Hawaii then gained a five-point lead, but a Hawaii service error followed by four blocks from BYU allowed the Cougars to catch up, bringing the score to 9-9. BYU earned a brief lead after a kill followed by an ace from Garcia Fernandez, which brought the score to 13-11. The teams continued to trade points for the remainder of the set, and Hawaii won the set — and the game — with the score at 19-17.
The Cougars will continue on the road, playing Stanford on March 13, USC on March 26 and Concordia on March 27 before returning to the Smith Fieldhouse to face Grand Canyon University for their final home game of the season on April 2.