Despite double-digit kills from four players, No. 5 BYU men’s volleyball fell at No. 6 UC Irvine in four sets (25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21) Friday night at the Bren Events Center.
“I thought we competed well for the most part tonight against a great opponent,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We have some things defensively that we'll need to shore up tomorrow if we want to split the series.”
Gabi Garcia Fernandez put up a team-high 17 kills in the match. Leo Durkin set the team with 47 assists and eight digs, while Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga collected a career-high nine digs and 10 kills. Price Jarman had four blocks to go with a career-high-tying 10 kills on a .625 clip and Brenden Sander contributed 13 kills.
UC Irvine (8-1) took an early 6-3 lead in the first set against BYU (5-2), but kills by Fa’agata-Tufuga and Fernandez kept the Cougars within two, trailing 7-5. The Anteaters then went on a 4-0 run to extend their advantage to six, 11-5. Two Fernandez kills helped push BYU on a 4-1 rally to counter, getting his team back within three, down 12-9. A Fa’agata-Tufuga kill brought the Cougars within two at 15-13, but UC Irvine scored the next three points, forcing a BYU timeout at 18-13. The Cougars rallied back within two once again, down 21-19, but the Anteaters scored the next three points to bring up set point. BYU scored three more points from there, but the rally proved too late as UC Irvine took the set, 25-22.
Back-to-back Anteater service aces put UC Irvine up 4-2 to start the second set. The Cougars scored six points from Anteater service errors before a Sander kill evened things up at 9-9. Service errors continued to plague both sides as the teams stayed within two points of each other until a Fernandez and Miki Jauhiainen block knotted up the score at 18-all. A Jarman kill pushed BYU ahead 21-20, but UC Irvine scored the next three points to go up 23-21. The Anteaters stayed ahead from there, winning another close set, 25-23.
The Cougars jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but UC Irvine capitalized off BYU errors to tie the set at 4-4. The teams stayed neck-and-neck as a Fa’agata-Tufuga kill made it 8-8. Two Jarman kills pushed BYU on a 3-0 run to increase its lead at 11-9, but the Anteaters worked their way back to a 12-all tie after three kills from Karl Apfelbach. A UC Irvine attack error extended the Cougars’ lead to three, 20-17, and a Jauhiainen and Fa’agata-Tufuga block made it 23-19. Two final kills from Sander gave BYU the set, 25-20.
A Sander kill put the Cougars ahead 3-1 at the beginning of the fourth set. BYU stayed ahead 8-6 after a Jarman kill, but the Anteaters used a 5-0 run to take a 15-11 advantage. The Cougars got back within four on multiple occasions before consecutive Sander aces brought BYU within one, down 22-21. UC Irvine proved too much down the stretch, though, topping the Cougars, 25-21, in the fourth and final set.
BYU will face the Anteaters at the Bren Events Center in a rematch Saturday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. PST. The match will be streamed by the Big West. Links to the stream and live stats can be found on the BYU men’s volleyball schedule page.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.