Legendary Stanley powers BYU past Lewis in NCAA semifinals

Photo courtesy of BYU athletics

Opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez in the postmatch news conference called Wil Stanley one of the most legendary setters in BYU history.

The All-American setter lived up to that legendary status in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

Stanley guided the offense to a .354 attack percentage along with defensively having a match-high eight digs and adding five blocks as the No. 2 seed BYU defeated the No. 3 seed Lewis 25-22, 25-15, 26-28, 25-20 on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.

The MPSF champions had three players finish with double-digit kills en route to securing a match-up with Hawai’i in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday.

Fernandez, an All-American and finalist for the Bryan Ivie Award, finished with a match-high 17 kills on a .364 attack percentage. In addition, outside attackers Davide Gardini and outside attacker Zach Eschenberg each had 11 kills against Lewis.


Lewis entered the match third in the nation hitting .345, but the Cougars held the Flyers to a .238 attack percentage — their lowest attack percentage in a match since early February.

Five-time All-American outside attacker Ryan Coenen in his final college match led Lewis with 13 kills. Middle attacker Tyler Mitchem also added 10 kills on a .500 attack percentage and a match-high six blocks.

This was the second consecutive NCAA Tournament match that Mitchem had double-digit kills and hit at least .500. The All-American and Ryan Millar Award finalist had 14 kills and zero errors while hitting .700 in an opening-round sweep against Penn State.

The Cougars out-blocked the Flyers 10 to 7 with middle attacker Felipe de Brito Ferreira leading BYU with six blocks.

BYU hit more than .500 for the majority of the fourth game and finished with a match-best .407 attack percentage. In addition, the Cougars led 20-19 before closing out the match on a 5-1 run that featured kills from Gardini and Fernandez.

In the third game, Eschenberg delivered an ace to give BYU a 23-22 lead, but Lewis scored the next two points to help force an overtime. Lewis had three failed game-point opportunities before setter Kevin Kauling and middle attacker TJ Murray both teamed up for a block to conclude the six-point overtime and force a fourth game.

Both Fernandez and Gardini had aces early in the second game to give the Cougars a five-point lead. In addition, Eschenberg had an ace and Ferreira had back-to-back blocks as part of a 4-0 run to close out the game and give the Cougars a two-game lead.

BYU jumped out to a six-point lead early in the first game but Lewis cut the deficit to 18-17 following an Alec Lehnert ace. BYU responded with a kill from Gardini and an ace from Eschenberg to give it a 23-19 lead as it went on to win the game.

Despite the opening game loss, Lewis hit .407 and both Coenen and Mitchem had five kills and zero errors.

BYU is making its first trip to the finals since 2017 — the last time the NCAA Tournament was held at Ohio State. The Cougars have lost three consecutive times in the finals and are attempting to win their first national championship since 2004.