Gabi Garcia Fernandez and Brenden Sander helped No. 4 BYU men’s volleyball past No. 11 Penn State in five sets (21-25, 29-27, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13) Thursday night at the Stan Sheriff Center to begin play in the Outrigger Resorts Invitational.
“I'm really proud of the guys for staying in the whole match,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Penn State is really well coached. I'm proud of the way we executed the game plan and pushed through some difficult moments.”
Sander led the Cougars with 20 kills to go with five digs, and Fernandez added 19 kills on a .419 clip and three aces. Leo Durkin set the team with 50 assists while contributing nine digs. Felipe de Brito Ferreira had seven blocks in the win.
Miki Jauhiainen got the first kill of the decisive fifth set for BYU (15-4, 7-0 MPSF). A kill gave Penn State (10-5, 5-2 EIVA) a 5-3 lead, however. The Cougars followed with four-straight points, capped off by a Sander ace, to go up 7-5. Penn State tied the score at 8-8, but BYU scored the next three points to take an 11-8 advantage. The Nittany Lions then got within a point on multiple occasions, but the Cougars took the set and match, 15-13, after a Fernandez kill.
Penn State jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the first set, but back-to-back aces from Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga inched BYU ahead 8-7. The Nittany Lions were soon back in control at 17-14, however, following two service errors from each team and a Penn State kill. Wil Stanley then subbed in, collecting an ace to help push the Cougars to an 18-17 edge. The Nittany Lions went on a 4-1 run to go up 22-20 before taking the set, 25-21, on a kill.
Four kills from Fernandez gave BYU a 6-3 lead to start the second set. A block from Jauhiainen and Sander kept the Cougars ahead 13-10. Penn State followed with a 4-0 rally to take a 17-16 lead. A service error from the Nittany Lions gave BYU set point at 24-23, but the teams went into overtime before a kill from Cyrus Fa’alogo and a Penn State attack error gave the Cougars the set, 29-27.
A kill from Sander and several Nittany Lion errors pushed BYU ahead 6-2 at the beginning of the third set. The Cougars stayed ahead at 12-8 after another Sander kill. Penn State then scored four-straight points to tie things up at 12-apiece. The teams remained within a point of each other until a Durkin and Ferreira block put BYU up 18-16 in the tight set. Another Cougar block gave BYU set point, 24-22, before a Fernandez kill won the set, 25-22.
Another Fernandez kill helped BYU take a 7-5 lead in the fourth set. The Nittany Lions went on a 5-1 run, capped off by an ace, to take a 14-12 advantage. Penn State stayed in control at 24-17 following a 7-1 run, which forced a timeout from the Cougars. The Nittany Lions then won the set, 25-19, sending the match to the decisive fifth set.
The Cougars continue play in the Outrigger Resorts Invitational on Friday, March 9, at 4 p.m. HST, against No. 8 Lewis. Live stats for the match will be available 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.