Gyimah remains unstoppable in UCLA win to reach NCAA finals

Photo by Jonathan Bates

For as good as BYU had been defensively throughout the season, it just could not find a way to stop UCLA All-American middle attacker Daenan Gyimah.

Gyimah had 13 kills and hit a match-best .750 as UCLA defeated BYU 25-22, 24-26, 29-27, 25-19 on Thursday in Los Angeles to advance to the NCAA Tournament finals.

This was the third consecutive match against BYU this season that Gyimah had double-digit kills and at least a .500 attack percentage, including his 10 kill performance UCLA’s MPSF Tournament finals loss. In addition, the 2018 Ryan Millar Award recipient as the nation’s top middle attacker entered the VolleyFour leading the nation with a .533 attack percentage.

Along with his offensive performance, Gyimah had a match-high three aces and added six blocks to help Bruins reach the championship match for the first time since 2006.

Gyimah was one of three Bruins to have double-digit kills as UCLA out-hit BYU .336 to .320. All-MPSF opposite Christian Hessenauer had a team-high 14 kills, while outside attacker Jake Arnitz finished with 10 kills.

Setter Micah Ma’a contributed six kills and guided the UCLA offense to hit more than .400 in two of the four games.

Both teams committed a combined 47 service errors in the match. BYU committed 25 service errors and had zero aces — three fewer errors and seven fewer aces than the UCLA.

This was the second consecutive NCAA Tournament match that the Bruins won despite committing more than 20 service errors.

All-American opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez in the loss had a match-high 19 kills on a .366 attack percentage. Fernandez in his NCAA Tournament debut also was second on BYU with nine digs.

BYU played the majority of the match without outside attacker Cyrus Fa’alogo, who suffered an injury midway through the second game. Outside attacker Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga came off the bench to replace Fa’alogo and had 11 kills on a .350 attack percentage.

All-American senior outside attacker Brenden Sander also had 10 kills in his final college match.

With this loss, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament remains winless since the field expanded in 2014.

BYU because of its bye to the VolleyFour as the No. 2 seed entered this match on an 11-day layoff. UCLA defeated Harvard in its first-round match on Tuesday to advance to the VolleyFour.

UCLA will play the No. 1 overall seed Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday. If the Bruins win, it will be their 20th championship in program history and end the program’s longest title drought of 12 years.