After splitting the regular season meetings and finishing 1, 2 in the standings, No. 2 BYU and No. 3 UCLA will battle it out for the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament in Saturday’s MPSF Final. That match will begin at 7:00 Mountain Time in Provo, Utah.
In Thursday’s semifinals, the Bruins edged past No. 14 Concordia Irvine in four sets with help from a 12-4 blocking advantage and .363 hitting effort, while the Cougars posted their best hitting night of the season, turning in a .529 effort, in a sweep of No. 19 USC.
#3 UCLA def. #14 Concordia Irvine 3-1 (26-28, 25-21, 26-24, 25-18)
- UCLA moves to 24-6; Concordia Irvine falls to 16-15
- Smith Fieldhouse, Provo, Utah
- Box Score
- UCLA Recap / Concordia Irvine Recap
- UCLA advances to MPSF Final vs.
Key Stats: Concordia Irvine boasted a 58-55 lead in kills, but could not overcome a 12-4 deficit in blocks or the Bruins’ .343 to .260 lead in efficiency. UCLA also led 3-2 in aces. The Bruins had three set-point tries in Set 1, leading 24-21 and missing on each, then fended off two Eagle tries before falling 28-26. After being outhit .281 to .188 in a 28-26 opening stanza loss, UCLA regrouped and hit .367 or better the rest of the way, including a .480 effort in Set 3.
Stat Leaders: Sophomore middle Daenan Gyimah pounded down 16 kills on a team-leading .571 hitting effort, while also posting a team-best six blocks and an ace to guide the Bruins to victory. Senior outside Jake Arnitz put down a season-high 15 kills and added six blocks, while hitting .414. Junior outside Dylan Missry (9) and senior opposite Christian Hessenauer (8) also aided the offense. Junior setter Micah Ma’a guided four of his five hitters to a .273 or better hitting clip, while notching a 45-assist, 10-dig double-double and serving up a team-best two aces.
Redshirt sophomore outside Raymond Barsemian (18), junior middle Hunter Howell (12) and senior middle Taylor Falduti (10) turned in double-digit kill tallies for the Eagles. Falduti hit at a match-high .600 clip (10-1-15) and served up an ace alongside Barsemian. Howell hit .588 and put up at a team-leading three blocks. Senior outside Jonathan Predney added eight putaways, but hit at a just a .080 clip.
It Was Over When: Concordia Irvine boasted a 9-7 advantage in Set 4 after four UCLA miscues and two Falduti putaways, when the Bruins turned the tables with a 6-0 run. Three Eagles errors and kills by Hessenauer and Missy helped UCLA to a 13-9 advantage. Concordia scored four of the next six, including two Barsemian putdowns, to narrow the gap to two at 15-13, but the Bruins once again countered. This time, UCLA managed a 7-3 run to grab a 22-16 lead. Five different players notched kills and Ma’a added an ace in the rally. In the end, a kill and an ace by Gyimah capped the win at 25-18.
#2 BYU def. #19 USC 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-22)
- BYU moves to 21-6; USC falls to 8-20
- Smith Fieldhouse, Provo, Utah
- Box Score
- BYU Recap / USC Recap
Key Stats: BYU hit at a season-best .529 clip in a sweep of USC to advance to the MPSF final for the first time since 2016 and fourth time in the last six years (also 2013, 2014). The Cougars also boasted a 6-3 lead in aces and 44-32 advantage in kills. Both teams put up four blocks. BYU hit better than .600 in the first two sets and wrapped up the match with a .370 effort.
Stat Leaders: Freshman opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, sophomore outside Cyrus Fa’alogo and senior outside Brenden Sander downed 12 kills apiece to lead the way for BYU, each hitting .421 or better. In his third match back after missing more than a month due to injury, senior middle Price Jarman tallied six kills. Freshman middle Felipe de Brito Ferreira chipped in a team-best three blocks, two kills and an ace. Garcia Fernandez led the team at the service line with three aces, while Sander followed with two perfect serves.
Redshirt junior outside Jack Wyett was the lone Trojan player to post double-digit kills, notching 10 on a team-high .364 clip. Junior outside Gianluca Grasso and junior outside Ryan Moss turned in nine and seven respectively, while each also adding a team-best two blocks alongside freshman middle Sam Lewis. Grasso served up all three of the team’s aces.
It Was Over When: After tying four times in the early stages of Set 3, the last at 10-all, USC seized control, going up 14-10 after a run of five straight points. Grasso notched a kill and an ace and Lewis and Gert Lisha teamed up on a block in the stretch. The Trojans were up by three at 19-16 after a pair of Cougar miscues, but BYU turned it around with six of the next eight points. Sander downed three kills as the Cougars grabbed a 22-21 lead. Wyett tied it up at 22, but could not hold off a final 3-0 run by the home side. A Sander kill and two USC hitting miscues wrapped up the 25-22 victory and the sweep.
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