Hawaii men’s volleyball: Rainbow Warriors look to mitigate Gabi Garcia Fernandez in BYU rematch

BYU opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez put a kill past Hawaii outside hitter Filip Humler (16) and middle blocker Patrick Gasman (15) during the second set on Thursday night. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

There were a multitude of reasons why No. 1 Hawaii got swept out of its own building by No. 2 BYU on Thursday night.

Swagger — or lack thereof. A predictable attack by Rado Parapunov and Colton Cowell. A sluggish defense. And difficulties in serve-receive.

A big factor in that last part was BYU junior opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, whose blistering serves yielded a eight aces and set the tone for the Cougars (17-0) in setting the UH opponent record for hitting percentage at .603 in the 25-15, 25-17, 25-20 beatdown.

The pink-clad, season-high crowd of 6,143 could not rally the ‘Bows, though they tried. Friday’s 7 p.m. rematch has been sold out. (It was not designated a color theme match.)

Fernandez was clocked at over 80 mph on some of his serves in tying his career-best tally in aces (one off the BYU record) on Thursday. He also had a team-high 13 kills on 16 swings, things Hawaii (14-1) will be sure to circle.

BYU senior setter Wil Stanley, a Punahou alumnus, laid out why the 6-foot-7 Fernandez, of Puerto Rico, is so integral to the team.

“Oh you know, you see Gabi go back to the serve, you know hey, we’re going to get a bad pass, or they’re going to not pass,” Stanley said. “We’re a good blocking team because of that. Gabi goes back and he hits these 65, 75 mph serves. Now they’re having to set high balls to their pins and we can get three up and get a good block. We have all the confidence in the world in Gabi. He’s going to go and hit his best serve and he was going to miss a few, but we know that he’s going to dial it in and find where he needs to be. It helps us tremendously. We have a lot more confidence when we have Gabi, Davide (Gardini) and Zach (Eschenberg) going back there jump-serving.”

Gardini supplied one ace and 10 kills on 12 swings and Eschenberg had no aces but another 10 kills on 16 swings. Stanley had an ace.

Stanley also elaborated on what it was like to play his first match in the Stan Sheriff Center — including high school, because state tournaments were held at the Blaisdell.

“I mean, that Hawaii team is really good. They’re going to be good tomorrow,” Stanley said after Thursday’s match. “And we’re going to see them again in May, for sure. They’re talented. I say we’re even. I think we’re pretty even, and I think tomorrow night will be a lot closer game. They’re going to come out and make adjustments, we’re going to come out and make adjustments. It’s going to be pretty fun.”