In 2018, BYU men’s volleyball ended its season with a trip to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the third-straight year after winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season and tournament titles.
In his third season at the helm of the men’s volleyball team, head coach Shawn Olmstead guided the Cougars to a 22-7 overall record and a 10-2 league record. He was named the MPSF Coach of the Year for the second time in three years.
BYU began the season ranked No. 3 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll and was picked to finish first in the preseason conference poll. With the loss in the NCAA semifinals, the Cougars ended the season ranked No. 3 in the AVCA poll.
Olmstead maintained success with the 2018 squad despite multiple injuries and lineup changes throughout the year.
Senior outside hitter Brenden Sander collected 3.40 kills per set (367 total) to go with 41 aces, 103 digs and 75 blocks.
Also at the pins, freshman opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez contributed a team-best 3.49 kills per set (387) in addition to team bests in aces (51, third-most in BYU rally-scoring era) and digs (150).
Senior setter Leo Durkin guided the team to a .313 hitting percentage with his 10.17 assists per set (eighth-best in the nation). He also dug up 145 balls and added 74 blocks.
At the middle blocker position, senior Price Jarman collected 1.13 blocks per set (89 total) while hitting at a .432 clip despite suffering an injury midway through the season.
Freshman Felipe de Brito Ferreira eventually took on a starting role as a middle blocker halfway through the year, collecting 1.14 blocks per set while hitting at a .500 clip.
Four players collected AVCA All-America honors in 2018, led by Sander who received first-team honors. Fernandez collected second-team honors and was named the AVCA Newcomer of the Year. Both Durkin and Jarman received Honorable Mention accolades.
Five Cougars earned All-MPSF honors this year, including Fernandez, Sander, Jarman and Durkin who were added to the First Team. Ferreira was named All-MPSF Honorable Mention, while he and Fernandez made the MPSF All-Freshman Team. Fernandez was also honored as the MPSF Freshman of the Year.
On the academic side of the net, Durkin, Jarman, Miki Jauhiainen and Wil Stanley collected MPSF All-Academic honors. Additionally, Jauhiainen was awarded the Elite 90 award for having the highest cumulative GPA at the NCAA Championships.
During the season, Jauhiainen, Jarman and Ferreira (twice) were named MPSF Defensive Player of the Week, while Fernandez, Sander (twice) and Durkin were named MPSF Offensive Player of the Week.
Additionally, Sander, Ferreira and Fernandez were each named AVCA Player of the Week during the season. BYU was the only team to garner more than one player of the week award from the AVCA.
Fernandez picked up Off the Block National Freshman of the Week accolades twice while being named the Off the Block National Freshman of Conference Postseason. He was also named Off the Block Freshman All-America. Additionally, Ferreira was named an Off the Block National Freshman of the Week.
Sander was named the Off the Block Player of the Month for March. Durkin collected Off the Block National Setter of the Week accolades for two-straight weeks, while Sander also picked up Off the Block National Outside Attacker of the Week honors.
Finally, Sander was named the VolleyMob Player of the Week after his performance at UC San Diego and USC.
BYU started the season at home, falling in five sets to Loyola-Chicago before beating Lewis. The Cougars then went on the road, defeating Ball State and then-No. 1 Ohio State.
BYU won its next two matches at home against Barton before falling in three-straight matches—twice at UC Irvine and once at home to UC Santa Barbara.
The Cougars cruised from there, winning 13-consecutive matches as they began conference play. Key wins included a sweep of rival UCLA and a four-set win at No. 2 Hawai’i to secure the Outrigger Resorts Invitational title.
BYU collected the No. 1 seed to the MPSF Tournament after winning the regular-season conference title outright, picking up a bye in the quarterfinals and the opportunity to host.
The Cougars then beat No. 6 seed USC before beating No. 2 seed UCLA in four sets to win the conference tournament title.
After picking up the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, BYU was awarded the No. 2 seed and a bye through the first three play-in matches.
The Cougars fell short to the Bruins in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, which was played on UCLA’s home court.
Despite the loss, BYU played in its third-straight Final Four for the first time in program history.
The Cougars lose four seniors, as well as redshirt junior Christian Rupert, from the 2018 squad heading into next year.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.