BYU’s 2022 season ended Wednesday night in Los Angeles after a 3-2 loss to Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
The loss marks the Cougars’ first MPSF tournament outing under Shawn Olmstead. That wasn’t the seventh-year head coach’s goal, however, after his team’s season-ending loss.
“I told them how much I cared about them,” he said when asked what he told his team after the loss. “How I love each of them; how much I appreciate each of these guys who trust our coaches and each other. I just told them how proud I was. They did not stop fighting. … They just won’t leave, and I was proud of them for that.
Although he ultimately ended the season with six straight losses, Olmstead believes his players gave their best throughout the streak.
“They were playing their best volleyball,” he said the day after the Cougars ended their season. “Last night was one of their best volleyball; the previous weekend, pushing UCLA. … They did exactly what we wanted to do, which was to improve; improvement that we could see, we could have on the statistics sheet, we could have in our analysis each week. We thought if we did that we were going to be a really, really good team. I think we have become a very, very good team. We didn’t become a great team, but we became a very, very good team.
The Cougars hope the lessons they learned this year will translate into greater success in 2023 as their young roster grows into seasoned veterans.
“The experience from this season is the most valuable thing for each of the guys,” Olmstead said. “And that’s also the most valuable thing for me as a coach.”
Despite their collective growing pains, BYU has had some impressive individual play this season, especially from senior outside hitter Davide Gardini. The Italy native was named to this year’s All-MPSF First Team, marking the fourth year he was an All-MPSF selection.
Gardini led the Cougars in every way, carrying the team many times throughout the year. The Ravenna elder almost single-handedly wanted BYU’s win over No. 1 UCLA on senior night at Smith Fieldhouse. Gardini finished the night with a career-high 30 kills, a .473 hit percentage, two service aces, four blocks and five digs.
BYU’s main frontman will be greatly missed next season. “I can’t say enough about Davide Gardini,” Olmstead said. “He carried a huge load for our guys. He never hesitated about that.
“I don’t think we fill that hole immediately after Davide leaves because of his quality as a player.”
Cougars freshmen Miks Ramanis and Teon Taylor joined Gardini at the MPSF season-ending awards, earning selections to the All-Freshman team.
BYU coaches remained focused on steady improvement over the season, believing their team’s progress was the best yardstick through a tough year.
“We told these guys not to worry about the result because we thought being a young team we needed to build,” Olmstead said. “You have to build. You have to get through these matches. This is where we will accumulate experience.
Olmstead believes the experience gained during the difficult 2022 season will pay off next year.
“I’m totally confident these guys are going to come back ready to compete,” he said of next season. “Things change and time passes and it’s going to be a whole new team.”
When asked what excites him most about the upcoming season, Olmstead said: “I just saw all those guys again, got them back. … I wish we could all have them back because they were just a great group of guys. I’m always thrilled to play and to have the chance to teach and to have the chance to be a mentor for these young men.
After losing in an unusual way early in the conference tournament, Olmstead and the Cougars will have to wait a bit longer than usual before returning to the field. BYU is confident the wait will be worth it.