We just play our game and we don't worry about the refs, but yeah, we were fired up to close it out. The crowd fires us up, though, and they were great tonight. —BYU opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez
PROVO — A blatant missed call can work to a team's advantage, at times, and may have worked for the No. 2-ranked BYU men's volleyball team on Thursday during its four-set win over USC (23-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-21.)
Midway through the fourth set, with the Cougars trailing 15-14, the Trojans committed a blatant double-hit, which was seen by just about everyone at the Smith Fieldhouse, save the officials. The crowd and the Cougar bench protested loudly, although the teams played on, with USC eventually being awarded the point.
But after some discussion, the officials eventually got the call right, tying up the score at 15-15 as a result. From there the Cougars cruised and scored the next four points to go up 19-15 and eventually take the fourth set 25-21, and the match.
"We just play our game and we don't worry about the refs, but yeah, we were fired up to close it out," said freshman opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez. "The crowd fires us up, though, and they were great tonight."
Fernandez was also great, at times, and particularly from the service line, where he scored five aces while causing all sorts of havoc for the Trojans' ability to get in a rhythm. He also led the team with 14 kills on a .241 hitting percentage, while scoring the match-winning kill.
"His serving — you can't get much better than that," said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. "To have five aces on eight errors — that's big time. That was huge...I like that he's getting more and more confident there."
As pleased as Olmstead was with how his team ended the match, a lot of the focus was on how his team started things, again digging a hole with a first set loss. It's been an all too common occurrence with the team this season, with coaches earnestly seeking a solution.
"Those starts are going to come back and bite us in the rear," Olmstead said. "I guess I'll take accountability and I wish we could get a better pulse on why, and what we're waiting for."
The Cougars did respond quickly to their first set funk in the second — storming out to a 8-3 lead to win by a comfortable 25-16 margin. But then things got more difficult in the third, with the Trojans keeping things close and gaining a lot of the momentum lost in the second.
"We got tentative," Olmstead said. "That's kind of been our Achilles (heel), as well. We make our own errors and for some reason it puts us in a funk, and the other team gets more confident."
That momentum continued into the fourth set, up until the final stages when the Cougars were firing on all cylinders. Playing big late was Fernandez, along with Storm Fa'agata-Tufuga, who contributed a crafty kill late en route to 13 kills on the night.
With the win, BYU improves to 18-4 overall and 8-0 in MPSF conference play. The team will have two weeks off before taking on Concordia Irvine and Grand Canyon at home before finishing off the regular season with matches at Pepperdine and UCLA.