It took five sets, but the No. 6 BYU men’s volleyball team (3-1) upset No. 1 Ohio State (2-1) 3-2 Saturday night at St. John Arena in front of 2,237 spectators.
The first set of the early-season rematch between the two teams in the past two NCAA championship games foreshadowed what proved to be a competitive match. The Cougars had an impeccable set for serving, committing only two service errors. Despite powerful jump-serves drilled by the Cougars, the Buckeyes were able to get the ball up and to setter Sanil Thomas, who was then able to work in-system plays.
Consistent, quick and powerful attacks from senior outside hitters Nicolas Szerszen and Maxime Hervoir and redshirt senior opposite Jake Hanes put the ball to the wood and started the Buckeyes off with a win in the opening set 25-21.
Despite losing the first set, the Cougars came onto the floor hungry for the second set. The Buckeyes won the first point after a kill from Hervoir, but the Cougars managed to side-out and take the lead and run with it for the entire set as communication diminished on Ohio State’s side of the net. BYU’s defense improved significantly in the second set, lowering Ohio State’s hitting percentage from .750 in the first set to .300. The Cougars claimed the set 25-21.
In the third set, the Cougars maintained their momentum, shutting down Ohio State’s offense with three blocks and 13 digs. Ohio State’s hitting percentage dropped further to .258 and the home team was unable to overtake the Cougars, losing 25-20.
Ohio State won the first point of the fourth set after a right-side kill by Szerszen and kept swinging hard throughout the set, eventually adding a second set 25-21.
Thomas assisted on 15 of the Buckeyes’ 18 kills.
At the beginning of the fifth set, the game remained largely up for grabs. BYU pulled away after a 5-5 tie and ended the fifth set 15-8, winning the match 3-2.
Cougar outside hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez scored 24.5 points in the match — the most for both teams. BYU setter Leo Durkin assisted on 42 of the Cougars’ 53 kills. Outside hitter Brenden Sander contributed 15 of BYU’s match points.
Hervoir had 20 kills for the Buckeyes, the most kills in the match by a player for both teams. Thomas topped both teams in assists with a total of 55, and Szerszen tied second for kills in the match with Cougar player Garcia Fernandez with 19 kills.