The Cougars celebrate a point against Stanford on March 12 in the Smith Fieldhouse. Fans were in attendance for the first time in over a year. (Hannah Miner)

No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball continues hot streak in first game in front of fans in over a year

The BYU men’s volleyball team hosted fans at the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday for the first time in over a year and treated them to a show with a sweep over Stanford.

“We really wanted to play for the fans. Having fans is definitely a big factor for us.” senior setter Wil Stanley said.

The match also marked exactly one year since the Cougars’ 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The players wore masks during the match to comply with Pac-12 guidelines.

No. 2 BYU extended its win streak to four, during which they have swept every opponent.

The crowd brought a much-needed energy for the team according to players and coaches.

Fans spectate a volleyball match at the Smith Fieldhouse against Stanford on March 12. It was the first time fans were at a home match in over a year. (Hannah Miner)

“It was loud and I didn’t think it would be. I got goosebumps. I think everyone fed off that energy,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said.

Prior to this match, only family members of players were allowed to attend matches.

The Cougars were dominant on both offensive and defense against the Cardinal. BYU was effective on the offensive side of the ball as they hit a .510 percentage and served six aces, three of which came from junior outside hitter Davide Gardini.

BYU complemented the offensive effort on the defensive side with 7.5 blocks and forced Stanford to hit a low .070 percentage.

Set One

BYU pulled away early to win set one 25-16.

The Cougars jumped to an early 15-10 lead thanks to a strong defensive effort. BYU was able to stifle Stanford’s hits as the Cougars compiled 3.5 blocks early on.

BYU continued their momentum to push the lead to 23-15 off of an ace by senior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez.

Senior outside hitter Zach Eschenberg finished off the set with an ace, BYU’s third of the set.

Eschenberg led the Cougars with five kills and an ace on the set. Senior middle blocker Miki Jauhiainen and Stanley each finished the set with a team-high two blocks.

Set Two

The Cougars continued their momentum from set one as BYU won set two 25-15.

Set two was more competitive early on as the score was knotted up at four after back-to-back attacking errors by BYU.

The Cougars cleaned up offensively as they went on a 7-2 run, forcing a Stanford timeout in the process. Eschenberg, Garcia Fernandez and Gardini each provided a kill during the run.

BYU continued the strong performance on both sides of the ball, pushing the lead to 20-13 off of Stanley’s no-look kill.

Junior middle blocker Branden Oberender finished the set with three kills on a perfect hitting percentage in his first start of the season. Garcia Fernandez also had three kills on the set.

Set Three

BYU completed the sweep in dominant fashion, winning the third set 25-16.

Set three was tight early as the score was tied at six apiece. BYU rallied to go on an 11-4 run to put the score at 15-10.

BYU cruised the rest of the set as several Cougars impressed in their first set of the match. Sophomore outside hitter Teilon-Jonathan Tufuga, junior opposite hitter Alex Ah Sue and sophomore middle blocker Gavin Julien all impressed off the bench.

Tufuga did quick work in his lone set of the match as he finished set three with six kills on a perfect hitting percentage.

Cougar fans will have another opportunity to cheer on BYU tomorrow night as the Cougars finish their series with Stanford at 7:00 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 13.

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