Gabi Garcia Fernandez looks on during a match at the Smith Fieldhouse. Garcia Fernandez led the Cougars to a win over No. 6 UCLA to clinch the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament. (Hannah Miner)

No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball clinches No. 1 seed in MPSF Tournament with sweep at UCLA

What a difference a few months can make.

The then-No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team was stunned by UCLA in the season opener on Feb. 4.

Fast forward two months and No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball clinched the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament with a dominant sweep of UCLA on Friday night at the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

This is the fourth time the Cougars have clinched a one seed in five full seasons under head coach Shawn Olmstead. The No. 1 seed gives BYU a first-round bye in the MPSF Tournament, which will be hosted by BYU in Provo from April 22-24.

The Cougars were excellent offensively as they hit on a .455 clip with only five attacking errors.

Senior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez led BYU on both sides of the court, tallying 11 kills on a .733 clip, three aces, three blocks and six digs. He is now just 12 aces away from becoming BYU’s all-time service aces leader.

Set 1

BYU took set one 25-19.

Both teams struggled from the service line early on as they combined for 12 service errors on nine possible points.

UCLA quickly grabbed a 13-11 lead off of back-to-back kills.

The Cougars responded with a 5-0 run as they settled in offensively. Senior setter Wil Stanley provided a pair of aces during the run.

The Bruins would tie things coming out of a timeout at 17 with a 4-1 run.

Then it was all Cougars as BYU took eight of the next ten points to close set one. Garcia Fernandez served two rockets during the run that resulted in aces as the Bruins were unable to handle them.

The Cougars’ hustle was on full display as they tallied 11 digs collectively, many of which were diving efforts to keep the play alive. Junior outside hitter Davide Gardini led BYU with four kills in set one.

Set 2

The Cougars dominated set two 25-16, despite trailing early on.

UCLA came out vengeful early in set two as the Bruins took the first four points of the set. Redshirt senior Austin Matautia served a hat trick of aces to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.

BYU came back with a 8-3 run to grab a one-point lead. The Cougars benefited from six errors by the Bruins during the run.

The Cougars began to pull away midway through the set as Garcia Fernandez served an ace to give BYU a 15-10 lead.

BYU would not let off the gas pedal as Gardini killed back-to-back balls to extend the lead to 20-13.

Senior outside hitter Zach Eschenberg capped off the set with a kill.

Set 3

BYU finished the match by winning set three 25-17.

Just like in set two, BYU took its first lead of the set at 8-7 thanks to senior middle blocker Miki Jauhianien’s ace.

The set was close until BYU pulled away following a tie at 13.

BYU built a 19-14 lead off of a 6-1 run that was capped off by a Garcia Fernandez kill.

UCLA took a timeout to regroup, but this did not unfocus the Cougars, as BYU finished the game on a 6-3 run.

A block by a trio of Cougars ended the Bruins’ hopes off a comeback and gave BYU the No. 1 seed for the MPSF Tournament.

BYU returns to action with a rematch against UCLA tomorrow night at 6 p.m. MDT.

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