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BYU men’s volleyball: Cougars show unique strengths in a straight-set win over Concordia

Gabi Garcia Fernandez returned to the lineup and the Cougars rolled over the visiting Eagles in straight sets on Thursday.

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The BYU Cougars celebrate on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Ranked No. 2 in the country, the Cougars defeated Concordia.

Madeline Mortensen/BYU

PROVO — BYU volleyball has a lot going for it, with several aspects of the undefeated Cougars standing out during Thursday’s straight-set win over Concordia (25-15, 25-19, 25-20.)

The undefeated and No. 2-ranked Cougars dominated from the the start, showing off the team’s overall talent and depth, with several otherwise seldom-used players stepping up big. Most notable of those filling in was sophomore middle blocker Branden Oberender, who stepped in for the injured Felipe de Brito Ferreira.

Oberender finished the match with five kills on just six attempts while making certain the Cougars didn’t miss a beat.

“The depth has been huge for us, and where it’s been really important for us is in practice,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “(Oberender) did an awesome job tonight, offensively, and we’ve had some other guys step up this year, so that’s crucial for us.”

Zach Eschenberg stepped into the regular rotation several matches ago and continued his stellar play, finishing Thursday with eight kills, and others off the bench contributing well along the way.

Also going well for Olmstead’s team is the ability to attract top talent from around the world, with Finland’s Miki Jauhiainen, Italy’s Davide Gardini and Puerto Rico’s Gabi Garcia Fernandez all showing up big yet again in the win.

As for Fernandez, he came back with a fury after missing BYU’s win over Grand Canyon last week for undisclosed reasons. The junior logged a match-high 10 kills on a .368 hitting percentage and again shined at the service line, adding three more service aces to his already gaudy season total.

“It was fun to be back home, and it’s always a process,” Fernandez said. “... I’m just proud of the team. We just have the guys to go head-to-head against anyone in the country, and that’s something to be excited about.”

Also showing big for the Cougars during the match were the fans.

Going head-to-head with a nationally-ranked BYU men’s basketball team could cause the faithful to stay away from the Smith Fieldhouse, but that certainly didn’t prove to be the case on Thursday. Fans almost filled the entire place — something that is always noticed and deeply appreciated by Olmstead and his players.

“The fans mean everything. ... We love our fans,” Fernandez said. “... We love them always supporting us, and it’s something to even cry about. We love them with all our hearts and know they have our backs.”

With the win, BYU improves to 14-0 on the season and will next square off against USC on Saturday before hitting the road until April 2.