Gabi Garcia Fernandez had a career-high 27 kills and Will Stanley had a career-high 53 assists as No. 4 BYU men's volleyball won a five-set thriller over Penn State (25-22, 25-27, 28-26, 19-25, 15-13) on Friday in the Rec Hall.
"I was happy that we stayed focused in the fifth set," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "We talked about the ups and downs from this match and how we can be better in certain situations. Penn State competed well, and I felt we matched it on our side."
Freshman Davide Gardini had a career high in kills as well with 17, and Cyrus Fa’alogo got a season high with 10 kills. Felipe de Brito Ferreira led the team in blocks with a season-high seven, while Garcia Fernandez added five. Gardini led the team in digs with 11.
The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set, bringing about an early timeout by the Cougars to talk things over. A series of Penn State service errors allowed BYU to bring it back within one, 14-13, and Fa’alogo’s first kill tied the match. The Cougars extended their lead to three, 19-16, but solid blocking from the Nittany Lions allowed them to come back and retake the lead, 20-19. Back-to-back kills from Fa’alogo gave BYU its first set point, 24-22, and a Penn State hitting error ended the set. Fa’alogo led in kills with five after one.
The Cougars were able to build an 8-5 lead in the second set, thanks in large part to Garcia Fernandez, who had the team’s first service ace and a pair of kills early in the set. The Cougars went on to extend their lead to seven, 16-9, before the Nittany Lions brought it back within two, 18-16. A BYU blocking error allowed Penn State to tie the set at 19-19 before the Cougars pulled away again to a 21-19 lead. Garcia Fernandez reached double-digit kills for the third-straight match late in the second set, but the Nittany Lions came back to win the set, 27-25, tying the match at one all. Garcia Fernandez had 13 kills on a .500 hitting percentage after two sets.
The Cougars opened up a 10-5 lead early in the third set, looking to impose themselves after a back-and-forth second set. Gardini reached double-digit kills for the second time in his young BYU career in the third set. The Nittany Lions tied the set back up at 16, however, and then took an 18-17 lead. Penn State appeared to win the set, 25-23, but Olmstead challenged the set point and won, putting the score at 24-all. A hitting error brought up BYU’s first set point, 27-26, and the Cougars converted to go up 2-1 in the match. Fa’alogo became the third Cougar with double-digit kills when he reached 10 in the third set.
Penn State got its seventh service ace of the match early in the fourth set to go up 7-3. BYU was then able to tie it at 11 as Garcia Fernandez crossed the 20-kill mark for the first time this season and the second time in his career. Penn State re-established the lead, 18-15, and then extended it to four, 21-17, soon after. The Nittany Lions went on to take the set, 25-19.4 comments on this story
Garcia Fernandez got his second ace of the match to put the Cougars up 6-5 early in the fifth and final set, followed by a block from de Brito Ferreira and Stanley to build a 7-5 lead. BYU led for most of the set, but Penn State came back to tie it at 12. The Cougars were able to hang on and win the set, 15-13 to stay undefeated on the year.
BYU improves to 3-0 this season and will remain in Pennsylvania for a match on Saturday, Jan. 19, at 11 a.m. EST, at Saint Francis. Live stats and a streaming link can be found on the men's volleyball schedule page.