PROVO — The fast start for the BYU men’s volleyball team in 2020 continues.
Gabi Garcia Fernandez had 14 kills and five blocks, and Davide Gardini added 12 kills — including the match-winner — to help No. 2 BYU hold off No. 8 Pepperdine, 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 25-20 Saturday night in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Zach Eschenburg added 10 kills, five digs and three blocks for BYU (13-0), and Wil Stanley dished out 36 assists for the Cougars, who tied for the second-best start to a season in program history with its second-straight win in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
“Credit to those guys; they came back and gave us a good match,” Fernandez told BYUtv. “They put it on us, and we had to problem solve a lot.
“We play volleyball on our side, and things just go our way.”
Noah Dyer had 12 kills, and Jacob Steele and Alex Gettinger each added 11 to lead Pepperdine (5-2, 1-1 MPSF). Joe Karlous had 43 assists and five digs for the Waves. The Cougars posted 12.5 blocks to Pepperdine’s six, led by seven stuffs from Felipe de Brito Ferreira.
“I think we are one of the most dominant teams — but volleyball still goes. Next week, something could happen,” said Fernandez, who won the 100th match in head coach Shawn Olmstead’s career, joining Hall of Fame coach Carl McGown in the 100-win club. “I trust my guys, and we’ll take it one step at a time, and not get ahead of ourselves.”
The Cougars rolled up eight blocks in the opening set to cruise to a 25-18 win and an early advantage.
The Waves hit just .146 early until BYU pulled away and Fernandez put down his 10th kill of the match to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead with a 25-22 victory in set 2.
Looking for momentum after the second-set break, Pepperdine jumped out to early leads of 8-6 and 13-11, hoping to take something off the second-ranked team in the country. BYU rallied to tie twice, at 13-13 and 14-14, but the Waves hit 13 kills with just four errors to hold on for a 25-22 third-set win.
Neither team led by more than 2 points in the fourth set until BYU used a 5-1 run to take a 20-15 edge on Felip de Brito Ferreira’s kill over the middle.
Eschenberg put down a pair of kills in the final 5 points to help the Cougars clinch the set and the match, 25-20.
“It’s always fun to start winning,” Fernandez said. “That gives the team confidence. But next week, we have to go to Arizona and give it to those guys. We’ll just keep playing BYU volleyball.”
The Cougars travel to face MPSF newcomer Grand Canyon next Friday at 6 p.m. MT.