No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball sweeps Penn State, reaches national title game


When the sweep was in doubt and the BYU men’s volleyball team looked vulnerable, it went back to it’s bread and butter. Feed the ball to Taylor Sander and Ben Patch.

The pair of all-Americans didn’t disappoint.

Sander led BYU with 17 kills, seven blocks and three digs while Patch contributed 12 kills, five blocks, five digs and two service aces. Both came up big in the third set to help BYU complete its comeback, propelling the Cougars to the national championship game, its first since 2004. Penn State was led by EIVA Conference Player of the Year Aaron Russell who recorded 13 kills.

BYU competes against Penn State in the Semi-Final Match of the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championships hosted by UCLA at Pauley Pavillion in Westwood, CA.
Taylor Sander blocks a Penn State player during Thursday’s sweep in the NCAA Semifinals.

The Cougars stumbled out of the gates early in the third set, quickly falling behind 1–6. Coach Chris McGown called a timeout and subbed setter Tyler Heap in for starter Ryan Boyce. That move sparked a Cougar run, but they still found themselves in a 15–19 hole. Patch and Sander, along with solid blocking, led them to a 10–3 run to finish the sweep. Josue Rivera finished the match with a powerful kill after a long rally that sent the pro-BYU crowd into a frenzy and the team to the national championship game.

BYU gets its third crack at UC Irvine in the championship game. BYU has defeated Irvine twice this season, most recently on the road in early March when it overcame a 0–2 set deficit and stole the match in the fifth set. McGown identified that match as this season’s defining moment, and the Cougars will get the opportunity to prove those two victories were legitimate on Saturday night.

The story of the match was blocking. BYU out-blocked Penn State 21–4, led by Devin Young’s six blocks. BYU dominated the net throughout the entire match, and the Penn State hitters were hesitant to swing hard at some points.

The national championship game will be held at 6 p.m. PST (7 p.m. MST) in Los Angeles at the Pauley Pavilion on UCLA campus. ESPN owns the rights to the viewing of the match and will be broadcast on one of its networks.

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