The Cougars celebrate a point against USC on April 2 in the Smith Fieldhouse. Seven seniors were honored in the final home match of the season. (Hannah Miner)

No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball shows out in Senior Night win over USC

The No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team put on a show on Senior Night in a 3-1 win over USC in the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday night.

“What a wonderful group,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said of the seniors. “I told them what they mean to this program. They’ve done amazing things.”

The Cougars were led by a strong senior presence in their lineup, as six of the seven starters were seniors.

From left: Cyrus Fa’alogo, Zach Eschenberg, Zach Hendrickson, Gabi Garcia Fernandez, Felipe de Brito Ferreira, Wil Stanley and Miki Jauhiainen are honored on Senior Night prior to the match against USC. Six seniors started against the Trojans. (Hannah Miner)

“It’s pretty emotional. I feel like we’ve gotten so close, especially after all these years. I love all those guys so much. We’re a family,” senior outside hitter Zach Eschenberg said. “It’s awesome to have such a fun group of guys to play volleyball with.”

BYU’s win over USC sets up an important two-game series against UCLA, currently second in the MPSF, to close out the regular season. A win over the Bruins would ensure the Cougars a regular-season MPSF title and the first seed in the MPSF tournament.

BYU extended its win streak to 11, nine of which have been sweeps.

Set 1

BYU pulled away late in a tightly contested set one to win 25-19.

The Cougars saw themselves tied with the Trojans at 13 a piece as both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively. Both teams combined for 13 errors on the 26 possible points.

BYU got out to a 17-16 lead after that and the Cougars started to find their rhythm.

Senior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez’s violent spike meteored to USC’s side of the court to give BYU a 20-16 lead.

USC called a timeout to stop the Cougars but was met with senior middle blocker Miki Jauhiainen’s block.

BYU rode the momentum to the end as Garcia Fernandez hit another kill to cap the set. He finished the set with four kills, while Jauhiainen contributed two kills on a perfect hitting percentage and a block.

Set 2

The Cougars fought off a Trojan comeback to win set two 25-21.

Set two was tight early on before Eschenberg served an ace to give BYU a two-point lead.

The Cougars extended their lead to four at 19-15 after back-to-back attacking errors by the Trojans.

USC gained momentum out of the timeout as the Trojans cut BYU’s lead to 19-17.

The Cougars regrouped to finish the set as an Eschenberg kill gave BYU set two.

Eschenberg finished the set with four kills.

Set 3

BYU was unable to hang on to a six-point lead as the Cougars dropped set three 26-24. The lost set snapped BYU’s streak of consecutive sets won at 17.

Much like the other sets, sets three was close throughout before BYU built a sizeable lead.

The Cougars pulled out to a slim 15-14 lead heading into a media timeout.

BYU came out white hot after the timeout as senior setter Wil Stanley won a joust that resulted in a USC error. Eschenberg followed up with an ace to extend BYU’s lead to 18-14.

The Cougars extended their lead to 20-14 before USC assistant coach Gary Soto had seen enough and called a timeout.

The Trojans didn’t go away quietly as they went on a 8-3 run to tie the score at 23.

BYU thought it had a 24-23 lead, but the point had to be replayed as a Cougar fan popped a balloon during USC’s serve.

USC would go on to win the overtime set off of back-to-back kills.

Garcia Fernandez had an excellent set as he compiled six kills.

Set 4

The Cougars regrouped to win set four 25-20 and win the match.

BYU went on a 3-0 run that was capped of by an Eschenberg ace to establish a 12-9 lead.

The Cougars continued to protect their lead behind consecutive highlight plays that brought the roughly 500 fans in the Smith Fieldhouse to their feet. Eschenberg outmuscled a Trojan in a joust to put BYU back up three. Not to be outdone, Stanley dove for a dig that rainbowed over the net to result in a kill.

Stanley continued to add to the highlight reel as he hit a no-look kill to give BYU a 22-17 lead.

Jauhiainen dealt the final blow to the Trojans as he spiked a kill to give the set and the match to the Cougars.

The Cougars return to action on Friday, April 9, as BYU travels to Los Angeles to face UCLA in an important matchup with huge MPSF implications.

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