The No. 3 BYU men's volleyball team dropped its season opener to No. 13 Loyola-Chicago in five sets (25-22, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-12) Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"We weren't communicating when it mattered, and there was some hesitation tonight and that's unfortunate," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "It's the first match of the season and we've got to go from here."
Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the team with 23 kills, seven digs and three blocks. Storm Fa'agata-Tufuga recorded a career-high 15 kills, while adding five digs and a career-high three aces. Brenden Sander collected 14 kills. Leo Durkin tallied 45 assists and 10 digs for a double-double, while Miki Jauhiainen contributed six blocks.
The Cougars (0-1) got on the board first in set five, but the Ramblers (1-0) went on to grab an early 8-5 advantage. Sander answered with a kill of his own to start a BYU run that was followed by a Fernandez kill to bring the set within one, 8-7. Two errors extended Loyola-Chicago's lead to 10-7, and then the Ramblers continued on to take the set, 15-12, earning the match.
In set one, Loyola-Chicago grabbed the first point, and the two teams battled evenly before the Ramblers went on a three-point run, taking a 7-3 lead and forcing BYU to call a timeout.
Fernandez was involved in two-consecutive points for the Cougars to bring them within three, 10-7. Price Jarman got his first kill of the night, and a service ace by Fa'agata-Tufuga put BYU within one, 16-15. A service error by Loyola-Chicago tied the game at 22-all before two attack errors gave the Ramblers set one, 25-22.
BYU took an early 3-1 lead in set two and was able to stay on top until Loyola-Chicago took its first and only lead of the set, 7-6. A kill by Fernandez and two service aces by Fa'agata-Tufuga returned the lead to the Cougars, 9-8.
After consistently keeping a lead over the Ramblers, a kill by Fernandez forced a timeout, as BYU had a 20-17 advantage. Fa'agata-Tufuga scored two points in a row to keep the Cougars on top, 22-18. At set point, Fernandez finished his attack, giving the Cougars set two, 25-21.
Set three began with both teams taking a turn at putting a point on the scoreboard. After being tied at 7-all, Loyola-Chicago scored two-consecutive points to take an early 9-7 lead. After falling behind 16-11, a balanced BYU attack, involving points by four different players, brought the Cougars within two, 18-16. But the Ramblers continued on to win set three, 25-20.
Neither team was able to take a controlling lead in the beginning of set four. A kill by Sander started BYU on a three-point run, earning an 11-10 lead. The Cougars came out of a timeout and saw kills by Jarman and Fernandez as they evened the game at 14.
A service ace by Fernandez put BYU on top 21-20, forcing a Loyola-Chicago timeout. In the final points of the set, Fernandez continued to score two more and assisted on a block with Jauhiainen, giving BYU set four, 25-23.
The Cougars return to action on Saturday, Jan. 6, as they host No. 6 Lewis at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be streamed live on theW.tv.