BYU gives fair fight, falls twice to No. 5 Grand Canyon
The currently undefeated Grand Canyon University stays victorious after defeating visiting BYU in both matches in the GU arena Friday and Saturday night. These matches put GCU at a total of 11 wins, while BYU is now 10-6.
Friday’s first set began with a kill from freshman Miks Ramanis, and energy radiated from both teams and a crowd with a healthy mix of fans for both teams.
The scoreboard remained fairly neutral until pushes from the Lopes towards the end of the set.
The Lopes secured set one 25-18, utilizing their outside hitter Camden Gianni throughout the set. GCU had a total hitting percentage of .600, impressive and imposing compared to BYU’s .320. Ramanis remained a leader for the Cougars with five kills in the first set.
BYU started the second set with the drive that they lacked at the end of set one. With impressive offensive plays from Luke Benson and Trent Moser, the Cougars secured a five-point lead at 6-2. However, the Lopes would crawl back consistently, tying the set at 12-12.
The score would remain in BYU’s favor at 17-13 after an ace from Moser, and would force GCU to use their second timeout of the set. This timeout was effective as the Lopes soon secured the lead, and ended the second set up 25-22, after multiple rallies that BYU just could not close out.
Set three once again began with the passion BYU needed to challenge the Lopes, tying the set at 10-10 and once again at 17-17. Despite the close scores, GCU got the run they needed through consistent, untouchable offense and ended the match after winning set three at 25-21. The Cougars left the gym tired, but not completely defeated, as they would have a chance at redemption the following night against the no. 5 ranked team.
The second game against GCU showed more of a equaled match between the no. 5 and no. 8 ranked teams. The Cougars recorded three aces in the first set, from Benson, Kupono Browne, and Ramanis. The set was a game of tug-of-war on the scoreboard, but BYU was able to pull the win at 25-17, a gap larger than any of the sets from the night before.
However, this success would be short lived for the boys in blue and white. Right off the bat, Julien, Moser, and Benson began the second set with three kills, but the momentum would shift in favor of the Lopes. When the score reached 20-15 GCU, Olmstead used his first time out of the night.
This time out did not restore any needed momentum for BYU, and set two went to the Lopes at 25-17.
Set three caught the two teams in another head-to-head battle. Setter Noa Haine has become a name to remember as BYU’s current starting setter, and proved his skill this set with impressive assists on offense and a solo block at the net for BYU’s 11th point.
This offensive pressure and multiple point runs throughout the set had BYU with the lead at 13-10 when GCU took their first time out of the set. Their second time out would soon follow at 20-15 BYU, after the Cougars had another passionate run in score. The third set ended with another win for BYU, the final score 25-19, after GCU had a service error at set point.
BYU’s defense out shown the Lope’s offense in the third set-with six blocks from BYU-and their ability to hold GCU to a hitting percentage of .069%. These impressive stats would not carry into the fourth set, where play dragged on until GCU took their second set of the night at 25-17.
Unlike in the match before, BYU proved that Saturday night’s game would not be a runaway, and the fifth set win was attainable for either team. The set was passionately fought for, with the score being tied six times before set point. The team teams were tied at 14-14 with the crowds and teams all holding their breaths.
The set and match would both come to an end in a win for GCU, after they took the fifth set 17-15. The close skill of play was apparent in the similar stats, with both teams hitting under a .200 in the final set. Overall, BYU recorded a .299 for the night, and Benson had a notable performance with a career high of 16 kills.
Before the men’s team hit the road earlier this week, Coach Olmstead commented on his team’s performance in away games compared to in the Fieldhouse. “In some ways there is a different energy and excitement… but I try to stay as consistent as I can be, whether we are on the road or not.” This change in scenery may influence the Cougar’s energy as this next week they are back on their home court.
Despite now being 2-4 in the MPSF play, BYU has a chance to increase their season wins this week in the Fieldhouse against Ohio State. Having the advantage of the crowds of Cougar fans on BYU turf and an consistently improving offense, the matches will have both teams displaying their best performances.
Shots from the men’s team in their practices at home in the Fieldhouse leading up to their GCU matches: