(Provo, UT) The 2021 season came to an end for the Grand Canyon men’s volleyball team, losing in three sets to top-ranked BYU in the Friday semifinals of the MPSF Championship at Smith Fieldhouse.
After hitting .375 in a four-set win against USC on Thursday, the Lopes (9-11) only hit .188 on Friday and fell into a deep hole after dropping the first two sets 25-14 and 25-19. GCU battled BYU (18-3) to the final point in the third set, losing 29-27.
“Definitely not the outcome that we hoped for, that goes without saying,” GCU head coach Matt Werle said. “But how we fought toward the end is something that we can be proud of and we made some tremendous strides after five straight matches against Pepperdine and UCLA that really didn’t go our way. We can be proud of leaving the building the way we left, we went down fighting and that’s something that we always talk about.”
The Lopes got off to a slow start in the first set as BYU won seven of eight points for a 9-4 lead. The first of a game-high 15 kills by redshirt freshman Camden Gianni got the Lopes within three points at 9-6, but that was as close as GCU came. BYU won 11 of the next 14 points to take a 1-0 match lead.
In the second set, the Lopes led 7-5 after a kill by redshirt sophomore Christian Janke, but the Cougars used three separate three-point runs to put the set out of reach. Four of GCU’s nine service errors of the match came in the set while Gianni recorded the last three Lopes points on kills.
The Lopes readjusted and competed in a much closer third set. BYU scored the first three points and GCU stayed close to the midpoint of the set, trailing 15-12. GCU responded when Gianni recorded two straight services aces that were bookended with kills by seniors David Kisiel and Trevor Weary, putting the Lopes ahead 16-15.
“Ironically, I think we’ve gotten so comfortable facing adversity that when things aren’t going our way, we start to respond well,” Werle said. “Being down 0-2 made us feel a little looser on the courts and guys just started getting after it. We talked about being aggressive and going down fighting, like I mentioned earlier, and the guys did just that.”
GCU and BYU traded subsequent points with the Cougars, holding a 19-18 lead before the Lopes again responded with a 4-0 run. Gianni and Kisiel combined for three kills while GCU earned a point on a BYU attacking error to go up 22-19.
BYU responded and finished the match strong, winning 10 of the final 15 points and the last three after GCU held set point at 27-26.
“We faced a lot of adversity and I told the guys in the locker how thankful I was for this last year and for the five years I’ve had,” Werle said. “It’s been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,”
Aftera two-kill, four-dig performance, Kisiel said, “There’s a lot of potential for us going into next year and I think they are going to do amazing things.”
Press Release courtesy of Grand Canyon University Athletics – Jerob Moon