PROVO — No. 10 BYU men’s volleyball suffered its first home loss of the season to No. 3 UC Irvine in four sets (25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22) on Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars were winners of seven straight at home going into the match.
“We were struggling and battling, but in the end UCI was just a little bit better when they needed to be down the stretch," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "This one is going to sting a little bit because I felt like we left a few too many opportunities on the floor, but it's a learning experience for the guys."
Felipe de Brito Ferreira set a new career high of 12 kills in the match, while also adding four blocks. Gabi Garcia Fernandez led the offensive and defensive efforts with 19 kills, four blocks and eight digs. Davide Gardini contributed 15 kills and three digs, while setter Cyrus Fa’alogo totaled 46 assists.
The Cougars (9-6, 3-2 MPSF) had a 3-0 run early with a Gardini ace and a kill by de Brito Ferreira, taking a 5-3 lead. A kill by Zach Eschenberg was followed by a Miki Jauhiainen ace, BYU’s second of the night, making it 18-14. The Anteaters (14-5, 2-2 Big West) kept close behind the Cougars, eventually tying it up 23-23 off a kill. UC Irvine then took the set 25-23 on a BYU setting error.
Both teams applied pressure to start the second set, keeping it close until the Anteaters broke into double digits off an ace, 12-9. The Cougars chipped away at the lead, evening the score, 13-13, off of two consecutive kills from Garcia Fernandez. BYU then took a four-point edge with a triple block, 20-16. A 3-0 run fueled by three kills added to the lead, and a Gardini kill sealed the set for the Cougars, 25-19.
A slide attack by Gardini put BYU in the lead, 4-2, to begin the third set. Multiple errors on both sides of the net evened out the score at 9-9 until a kill gave UC Irvine a slim 16-14 advantage. A de Brito Ferreira kill shaved down the BYU deficit to 21-19, while a Jauhiainen kill and an Anteater error evened the set, 23-23. A block on the right side then gave UC Irvine a 25-23 third-set victory.1 comment on this story
A pair of de Brito Ferreira kills led BYU to a quick 4-2 start in the fourth set. Dual blocks by Jauhiainen, Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga and Garcia Fernandez then restored the Cougars’ advantage, 9-8, after a short UC Irvine edge. However, UC Irvine went on a 3-0 run to take the 17-13 advantage. A kill by Gardini helped to reduce the point discrepancy, 22-20, but a kill by the Anteaters ultimately led to a 25-22 set and match win for UC Irvine.
The Cougars return to their home court on Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. MDT to battle the UCLA Bruins. The match will be live broadcast on BYUtv and live stats will be available on the men’s volleyball schedule page.