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Here are the teams that stand between BYU volleyball and a national championship

SHARE Here are the teams that stand between BYU volleyball and a national championship
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BYU’s Davide Gardini, Gabi Garcia Fernandez, and Miki Jauhiainen celebrate after a point as BYU and Pepperdine play in the finals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship, at the Smith Field House in Provo on Saturday, April 24, 2021. The Cougars open play at the NCAA tournament with a semifinal matchup against Lewis on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It’s been 17 years since the BYU men’s volleyball program last won a national championship, even though the Cougars have been national runners-up three times since then. 

The program’s next chance to bring home another national title comes this week at the NCAA volleyball championships at the Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio.  

NCAA men’s volleyball championships

NCAA men’s volleyball championships


Monday, first round

Penn State def. Belmont Abbey, 3-0

Tuesday, quarterfinals

UC Santa Barbara def. Pepperdine, 3-1

Lewis def. Penn State, 3-0

Thursday, semifinals

No. 1 seed Hawaii vs. UC Santa Barbara, 3 p.m. MDT

No. 2 seed BYU vs. Lewis, 6 p.m.

Saturday, championship

Semifinals winners, 6 p.m.


There have already been two days of competition at the NCAA championships, setting up a final four group that includes No. 1 seed Hawaii, No. 2 seed BYU, Lewis and UC Santa Barbara. It’s a group of teams that have made the NCAAs but struggled to win it: all four have made the national championship game at least once in the past 10 years, but none have won it.

BYU has won the most NCAA championships — three — of the remaining teams in the field. Hawaii (2002) and Lewis (2003) each won a national title in the early 2000s, only to have their championship vacated due to NCAA sanctions. UC Santa Barbara has been national runner-up five times, but never won the title. 

Here’s a look at each team in contention to bring home the trophy this weekend: 

BYU Cougars

  • Conference: MPSF
  • Record: 19-3
  • AVCA national ranking: No. 2
  • 2021 record vs. other semifinal teams: 0-0 
  • Record in NCAA championship match: 3-4

Team leaders

  • Senior opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, 276 kills (3.73 per set)
  • Senior middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira, .450 hitting percentage
  • Senior setter Wil Stanley, 718 assists (10.26 per set)
  • Junior outside hitter Davide Gardini, 118 digs (1.59 per set)
  • De Brito Ferreira, 79 blocks (1.25 per set)

The Cougars have won 14 of 15 matches heading into their 10th NCAA tournament appearance. Five BYU players received AVCA All-American honors, led by Garcia Fernandez — a four-time All-American — Gardini and Stanley all making the first team. BYU heads into the NCAA semifinals ranked second in the country for hitting percentage (.348), third in blocks per set (2.784) and third in aces per set (1.76). Garcia Fernandez is only four aces away from taking over BYU’s all-time career aces record. 

Lewis Flyers

  • Conference: MIVA
  • Record: 21-2
  • AVCA national ranking: No. 4
  • 2021 record vs. other semifinal teams: 0-0
  • Record in NCAA championship match: 1-1 (Lewis vacated its 2003 national title — it beat BYU in the national championship match — due to NCAA sanctions.)

Team leaders

  • Senior outside hitter Ryan Coenen, 349 kills (4.42 per set)
  • Senior middle blocker Tyler Mitchem, .489 hitting percentage
  • Sophomore setter Kevin Kauling, 865 assists (10.95 per set)
  • Sophomore outside hitter Cole Brillhart, 137 digs (1.85 per set)
  • Mitchem, 102 blocks (1.29 per set)

Lewis is one of the hottest teams in the country, entering the semifinals on a 13-game winning streak after sweeping Penn State in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. The Flyers trailed by as many as five in two of the three sets against the Nittany Lions before rallying for the sweep. Lewis had five players named AVCA All-Americans, including Coenen and Mitchem to the first team and Kauling on the second team. The Flyers are second nationally in blocks per set (2.89) and third in hitting percentage (.345).

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

  • Conference: Big West
  • Record: 15-1
  • AVCA national ranking: No. 1
  • 2021 record vs. other semifinal teams: 3-0 vs. UC Santa Barbara
  • Record in NCAA championship match: 1-2 (Hawaii vacated its 2002 national title due to NCAA sanctions.)

Team leaders

  • Senior opposite Rado Parapunov, 260 kills (4.41 per set)
  • Senior middle blocker/opposite Patrick Gasman, .500 hitting percentage
  • Sophomore setter Jakob Thelle, 627 assists (10.63 per set)
  • Junior libero Gage Worsley, 137 digs (2.32 per set)
  • Gasman, 72 blocks (1.26 per set)

Hawaii went undefeated during the regular season before falling in five sets to UC San Diego in the Big West tournament semifinals. The Rainbow Warriors were national runners-up in 2019, falling in four sets to Long Beach State. Hawaii leads the country in kills per set (13.76), assists per set (12.54), and hitting percentage (.365) — Gasman leads all individuals in hitting percentage — while Parapunov was named the AVCA National Player of the Year, ranking third in the country in kills per set and points per set (5.24).

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

  • Conference: Big West
  • Record: 16-4
  • AVCA national ranking: No. 3
  • 2021 record vs. other semifinal teams: 0-3 vs. Hawaii
  • Record in NCAA championship match: 0-5

Team leaders

  • Senior opposite Randy DeWeese, 286 kills (4.03 per set)
  • Senior middle blocker Keenan Sanders, .455 hitting percentage
  • Senior setter Casey McGarry, 787 assists (11.08 per set)
  • McGarry, 153 digs (2.15 per set)
  • Sanders, 60 blocks (0.85 per set)

The Gauchos knocked out the MPSF’s Pepperdine in the NCAA quarterfinals, as DeWeese and Roy McFarland each had 21 kills in a four-set win, 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26. UC Santa Barbara hasn’t lost in more than a month, winning 11 straight matches. McGarry, who repeated as a first-team All-American, leads the country in assists, while head coach Rick McLaughlin was named AVCA DI-II Coach of the Year for the second straight year.