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PROVO — No. 9 BYU men’s volleyball was not going to give up so easily.
Even after No. 8-ranked Stanford took a 14-12 lead in the decisive fifth set of a top-10 matchup in the Smith Fieldhouse, the Cougars’ star hitting duo of Gabi Garcia Fernandez and Davide Gardini didn’t bat an eye.
Gardini poured in a career-high 22 kills with just five errors, and Garcia Fernandez added 13 kills, six digs and four blocks to help No. 9 BYU hold on for a 21-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-23, 17-15 win over the Cardinal in front of 3,192 fans Thursday night in the Smith Fieldhouse.
"I know that Stanford is a really good team, probably the best team that we’ve played here so far," the freshman Gardini told BYUtv after the match. "But playing here is amazing. I wanted to do my best, but I wanted to get a win. I’m happy."
Will Stanley dished out 54 assists with four digs for BYU (8-4, 4-2 MPSF), and Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga, Felipe de Brito Ferreira and Miki Jauhiainen each added seven kills for the Cougars in a win that granted sole possession of third place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Kyler Presho led Stanford with 14 kills, and Jordan Ewert and Jaylen Jasper added 13 kills apiece for the Cardinal (11-6, 3-3 MPSF).
Stanford took a 14-12 advantage and looked to close out on the match on a kill by Ewert.
But the Cardinal didn’t lead long in the do-or-die scenario on the Cougars’ home court.
First Jauhiainen kept BYU alive with a kill. Then Garcia Fernandez, Jauhiainen and Fa’agata-Tufuga teamed up on a mean triple block to tie the match at 14-all, forcing extra points.
Still, Stanford came back via Presho’s kill that gave the Cardinal another match-point opportunity.
But Garcia Fernandez and Gardini put down back-to-back kills, and the match ended controversially on an error from a back-row kill attempt by Jaylen Jasper to help the Cougars survive, 17-15.
Stanford did not have a challenge available at the end of the match, giving BYU a critical win and a one-game advantage in the MPSF standings.
It was an ending that Gardini himself couldn't explain.
"I have no clue, honestly," Gardini said when asked how they came back. "We just stayed there and stayed focus. I think it was a huge moment, but we got things done, let them play and we stayed in the moment."
BYU travels to face Stanford at Maples Pavilions on Saturday, March 2. First serve is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT on the Pac 12 Network.