Sunday, May 9, 2021

Felipe de Brito Ferreira and the Cougars celebrate the MPSF Championship match win. De Brito Ferreira had seven blocks in the match. (Hannah Miner)

BYU men’s volleyball sweeps Pepperdine in MPSF Championship to earn NCAA Tournament bid

The BYU men’s volleyball team came out on top in the MPSF Tournament Championship match on Saturday night, sweeping Pepperdine to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m happy, excited and ecstatic for these guys,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “For me, personally, this is the biggest one. We shed a few tears in the team room. It was the culmination of a few things that we’ll hold on to, and looking at what these guys have gone through.”

Zach Eschenberg and Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the way for the Cougars in double-digit kills, with 13 and 10 respectively. BYU out-blocked Pepperdine 13-0 on the night, with Felipe de Brito Ferreira contributing seven.

“It feels really, really good that we get to see the fruits of our labors and continue on in the NCAA Tournament,” Eschenberg said after the match.

Garcia Fernandez got his first ace of the match early, but the Cougars were unable to pull away in a very close first set. Pepperdine led at the first media timeout, 15-14, with the Waves hitting .294 and the Cougars .231.

The MPSF Player of the Year got his second ace soon after the timeout, and Pepperdine called timeout to keep him from going on a run. The icing tactic didn’t work, as Garcia Fernandez proceeded to get his third ace of the first set.

The Cougars won the tight first set 25-23 on a block from de Brito Ferreira, totaling 5.5 as a team in the opening period to zero for the Waves. Eschenberg led BYU with six kills in the first set.

The Cougars celebrate a point against Pepperdine in the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU out-blocked the Waves 13-0 on the night in a dominant sweep. (Hannah Miner)

BYU went on an 8-0 run to start the second set, establishing a dominant tone with the Smith Fieldhouse crowd behind them. The Cougars dominated the rest of the set, going on to win it 25-15. Eschenberg reached 10 kills in the second, the first Cougar in double digits.

The third set was much closer, with Pepperdine staying in comeback range of the Cougars. The Waves called a pair of timeouts midway through, with BYU leading 17-14 at the second. Eschenberg continued his hot hitting with Garcia Fernandez finding his rhythm as well.

The Cougars began to pull away after that, forcing another Pepperdine timeout with a 20-15 lead and the makings of a championship match sweep. Fittingly, the Cougars completed the sweep on a triple block, officially out-blocking the Waves 13-0 in the match.

BYU now awaits its seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which will be held May 3 to 8 in Columbus, Ohio. This will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the Cougars since 2018.

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