BYU men’s volleyball rallies for five-set victory over No. 4 UCLA
No. 9 BYU men’s volleyball made its largest comeback of the season, winning sets three, four and five to stun No. 4 UCLA at the Smith Fieldhouse on Thursday (30-32, 21-25, 25-20, 25-16, 17-15).
After being down two sets to none, the Cougars (10-6, 4-2 MPSF) came back and took the Bruins (16-5, 6-1 MPSF) to set five. Mirroring the previous sets, BYU and UCLA remained close at the start of the set with the set tied at 4-all. Despite a brief lead from the Bruins, the Cougars came back to tie it up 8-8 off a UCLA service error. Continuing point for point, BYU and UCLA reached a 13-13 tie. Back-to-back kills by Gardini gave set five and the match to the Cougars, 17-15.
“I hope the guys see their improvement. It’s slow and steady, but we’re improving,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “To be able to battle when you’re down and your backs are against the wall down 2-0, that’s big time. They did a really good job, so hopefully it gives them some momentum and belief that these things can happen.”
Davide Gardini led all players with 20 kills in the match and also added two aces for BYU. Gabi Garcia Fernandez and Andrew Lincoln also claimed double-digit kills with 13 and 11 respectively, a new career high for Lincoln. Freshman setter Brody Earnest made his first home appearance at BYU and dished out 31 assists for the Cougars. Taylor Richards and Gardini both had nine digs in the match.
The Cougars and Bruins battled point for point in the first set to remain tied 10. After a 3-0 UCLA run, BYU trailed the Bruins, but kills from Lincoln and Gardini kept the Cougars within two points, 21-19. BYU fought back and tied it up at 23 on a block by Jauhiainen and Cyrus Fa’alogo. Despite battling back and forth for the next 16 points, the Bruins took set one, 32-30.
Earnest took the court for the first time at home during set two for the injured Fa’alogo, and assisted de Brito Ferreira in a kill to bring the score to 3-3. With players on both teams making big plays, the Cougars and Bruins remained tied at 14. A kill from Garcia kept BYU close behind UCLA at 21-19., but an ace by the Bruins gave them set two, 25-21.
Starting set three much like sets one and two, BYU and UCLA were even at 5-5. The Bruins took a 6-1 run to put them up, 13-7, but the Cougars answered back with a 5-1 run, including the first Cougar ace by Gardini. A Lincoln kill tied set three up at 15 and BYU took the lead,16-15 off a UCLA attack error. The Cougars continued their run and took set three 25-20 off a kill by Gardini.
Even performances from both teams kept them battling at the start of set four, but BYU took the lead, 10-8 off a Bruin attack error. The Cougars went on a 7-1 run, with kills from Garcia Fernandez and Gardini, giving them a 14-9 lead. Keeping the momentum, the Cougars went on a 6-0 run to increase their lead to 21-11. Despite the Bruins’ best efforts to come back, BYU won the fourth set, 25-16 off a UCLA serving error.
BYU faces No. 6 Pepperdine at home in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT. The match will be broadcast live by BYUtv and live stats can be found on the schedule page.