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Grand Canyon Athletics | February 26, 2021

Grand Canyon makes history while taking down No. 1 BYU

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The No. 9 Grand Canyon men's volleyball team swept No. 1 BYU in its home opener Thursday night, recording the second win in GCU Athletics history against a No. 1 ranked team and setting an NCAA record in a pivotal 45-43 second set.

The Lopes (2-3, 2-3 MSPF) won 25-22, 45-43, 25-10 against the Cougars (5-2, 5-2 MSPF) at GCU Arena with the second set breaking the NCAA men's volleyball record for the highest-scoring set. Freshman outside hitter Camden Gianni led the Lopes with 19 kills, five digs, four blocks and an ace to finish with 23.5 points and a .567 hitting percentage. "We played like a team tonight," Gianni said. "Everyone did a great job with whatever roles each individual took. With what Christian Janke brought to the service line, defensively, and what he was able to do to close out the second set was critical. Heath Hughes did an excellent job distributing the offense and our middles executed flawlessly. Hugo Fischer also did a great job pushing the tempo opposite to me and Christian.

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"It was a great team win, but we still have a lot of the season left to go. We still need to stay focused and not let this win distract us from anything." The Lopes took a 5-3 lead in the first set with Gianni picking up three kills. BYU took back the lead, but the Lopes were unfazed as they went on a three-point run with a kill from senior middle Ian McLain and a block and kill from Gianni to go up 12-11. McLain had another bigtime play for the Lopes, serving an ace for a 16-14 lead. A double block by Hughes and Thompson and a kill followed by a block from Gianni gave the Lopes a three-point run to lead 20-17.

Gianni served an ace on set point to defeat the Cougars 25-22. Gianni finished the first set with 10 of the Lopes' 15 kills, two blocks, a dig and an ace. "I'm excited," GCU head coach Matt Werle said. "I'm very proud of how we responded to a couple road losses to them, which I think we gave away in the second set last Saturday night. I thought we responded well. We executed the scouting report very well tonight." The Lopes earned a spot in the NCAA record books by winning the highest-scoring set in men's volleyball history, 45-43 in the second set. The Lopes hopped out to a 5-0 lead with an ace from Janke, a kill from Hughes and a double block by Hughes and Thompson. BYU battled to get in the set, but a kill from Janke kept the Lopes ahead 10-5. BYU was forced to call a timeout after back-to-back kills from Janke and Gianni, putting GCU up 20-16. The strategic timeout put the Cougars on pace to tie the match at 22-22, forcing the Lopes to call timeout. "In the second set again tonight, we took our foot off the gas with that lead, which is a little bit disappointing," Werle said. "I don't think that set should've gone as long as it did. But I'm glad that we had the mental toughness to pull away with the win. When they hit some great serves, in the late 30s even, for aces and it didn't seem to affect our guys. We worked hard, we scrapped, we did all the little things very well tonight."

Two Cougars errors led GCU to a set point at 24-22, but a BYU kill triggered a long back-and-forth series. The Cougars tied it at 25 with an ace, followed by a service error. The teams traded kills, followed by three straight service errors between the two teams to tie up at 27-27. Kills from Janke and Gianni were split by one from BYU, giving the Lopes a 29-28 lead. Service errors kept either team from going up two, as the set continued in ties or one-point differentials. The Lopes stayed tough through the extended set, with McLain coming in with a powerful kill to tie it at 39-39, followed by a block assisted by Fischer to take a 40-39 lead. Both teams seemed to find their strides as aces and kills were traded leading to a 43-42 lead for the Cougars. Fischer made a big kill for the Lopes to tie it at 43-43 before BYU made an attack error to set up set point again. Janke was able to key the block in a clutch play, giving GCU the 45-43 win in the record-setting second set. "I thought we never really took our foot too far off the gas tonight," Werle said. "I think we found some nice aggression. Our servers did a better job of knowing when that toss wasn't there, keeping the ball in play, keeping some constant pressure on their team, and I think it showed. They're really good, they had to travel here yesterday. They're more fatigued than we are after long matches last week. So, I think we just tried to keep pushing and end points quickly, and I think it worked out for us." The Lopes used the energy from a huge second-set win to win a convincing 25-10 third set. GCU pulled ahead 8-4 to force a BYU timeout.

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Shortly after, a five-point Lopes run extended the lead to 15-6. Gianni recorded three straight kills to push GCU ahead 22-9 before a three-point run ended the match on a McLain solo block. "I'm proud of these guys," Werle said. "I know this is just the start of our season, there's still a long road ahead. This one win shouldn't define us this year, it's where we end this season that's really going to define this team. But they were excited, as much as we were disappointed to not play two weekends at home and have three matches at home under our belt, having No. 1 on your home court for your home opener is also pretty special. So, I think they rose to the occasion with that." GCU takes on BYU for the fourth consecutive match at noon Saturday in GCU Arena. "The message is that we have to come into the gym tomorrow and be as dialed in as we were tonight," Werle said. "We have to make sure that we're still getting better in the practice gym and make sure that we don't let that second set almost slip away from us and make sure that we really start fine-tuning some more things."

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