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Sander, Patch Sweep BYU Into Title Match

3 May 2013 Brett Richins
Middle blocker Russ Lavaja celebrates a point. BYU PHOTO/Jeren Wilkey

Middle blocker Russ Lavaja celebrates a point against Penn St. BYU PHOTO/Jeren Wilkey

BYU volleyball will play for its fifth national title on Saturday, and its first in nine seasons.

The Cougars (26-4) dispatched Penn State 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-22) in the national semifinals at UCLA’s Pauly Pavillion Thursday night  to earn their fifth all-time appearance in the NCAA championship game where they will face MPSF rival UC Irvine.

Junior Taylor Sander led BYU with a match-best 17 kills, seven digs and three blocks. Freshman Ben Patch also had double-digit kills with 12, while adding two aces and six blocks.

“I thought we did a lot of things really well,” head coach Chris McGown said. “I was really proud of our defensive effort. We had a lot of nice touches and then we also blocked a lot of balls. We also had wonderful offensive performances with Taylor Sander and Ben Patch and they carried us offensively. Ultimately, we’re really happy to have won a match in three sets against a very good Penn State team and a team for whom we have a lot of respect.”

BYU started slow in each of the three sets, but came on strong as the games advanced. In the final set, the Cougars overcame a 6-1 deficit by outscoring the Nittany Lions 24-16 the rest of the way, including winning 10 of the final 13 points to secure the sweep.

“We kind of struggled in the third set but we were able to battle through,” Sander said. “I think that’s what our team has been doing all season, just hanging in there through tough sets and playing hard volleyball. That was a really good Penn State team and it’s going to be fun being able to play UCI on Saturday for the national championship.”

For the match, BYU outhit Penn State .357 to .151 and had 21 blocks to the Lions four. Devin Young (6) and Patch (5) combined for 11 of those blocks. Meanwhile, Sander led the team with a hitting percentage of .556.

The Cougars will face the Anteaters for the third time this season in the title game. The Cougars defeated UCI in both previous meetings, winning in four sets in Provo and having to go to five sets to get the victory in Irvine. Irvine won the national championship last season and will be trying to become one of the few teams in NCAA history to win back-to-back volleyball national titles.

The match gets under way at 7 p.m. MDT on Saturday and will air live on ESPNU.

BYU Notes

–Since its inaugural volleyball season in 1993, the winner of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men’s volleyball tournament has gone on to capture the NCAA Championship 13 of the 20 years.

–BYU has won four MPSF volleyball championships (1999, 2003, 2004, 2013).

–In 2003, the Cougars won the MPSF tournament but lost in the NCAA title game to Lewis, who later forfeited its 2003 NCAA men’s volleyball championship after an investigation found the team played an ineligible athlete.

–Prior to 2013, the Cougars have reached the NCAA Final Four four times and have gone on to win the National Championship three times (1999, 2001, 2004).

–The Cougars are 8-1 in the NCAA Tournament, with their only loss coming to Lewis in the 2003 title match.

–BYU served up Penn State’s (23-8) first sweep in an NCAA tournament semifinals match since 2005.

Chris McGown , this year’s AVCA national coach of the year, can become the first son to have a father-son NCAA title. Father Carl led BYU to its first title back in 1999.

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