(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
LOS ANGELES – Playing in the NCAA title match for the first time since 2004, the No. 1 seed BYU men’s volleyball team challenges No. 2 seed UC Irvine for the National Championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The NCAA title match will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
“We are excited to be playing in the national championship match," head coach Chris McGown said. "I felt like we had a nice effort last night and did a lot of things really well, as well as a few things we want to get better at. We’re excited to be playing a very good UC Irvine team and expect that this match will be one of those phenomenal match-ups.”
With BYU’s (26-4) 3-0 win over No. 4-seed Penn State, the Cougars improve to 8-1 all-time in the NCAA tournament, with their only loss coming to Lewis in the 2003 title match, which it later vacated.
UC Irvine (24-7) earned a spot in the final match after sweeping No. 3 seed Loyola-Chicago in the semifinals. The Anteaters earned the at-large bid after being knocked out of the MPSF tournament in the semifinals with a 3-2 loss to Long Beach State.
The Cougars’ semifinal win against Penn State gave Chris McGown his 50th win in just two seasons at the helm for BYU. Tom Peterson (2003-06) is the only BYU coach to record more wins in his first two seasons (52). McGown is the 2013 AVCA National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year.
The two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) teams finished one and two in the conference, with BYU grabbing the top spot. The Cougars won the regular season title by three matches and earned their fourth MPSF tournament championship.
BYU took both regular season matchups against UC Irvine, with a 3-1 win in Provo on Jan. 18, and a 3-2 comeback victory in Irvine on March 1, where freshman Ben Patch recorded a BYU rally-scoring record and MPSF season-high 35 kills.
Both teams are 24-0 when winning the hitting percentage battle. UC Irvine is 20-0 when producing more kills than its opponent.
Junior outside hitter Taylor Sander and Patch garnered AVCA All-America First Team honors while senior middle blocker Russ Lavaja was named to the second team. Patch was also named the AVCA Newcomer of the Year.
The Anteaters placed three athletes on the All-America teams. Michael Brinkley and Kevin Tillie were named to the first team with Collin Mehring earning second team honors.
This is the Cougars’ fifth appearance in the NCAA Championship match. The Anteaters have won three national titles (’07, ’09, ’12) and look to become the first back-to-back champion since UCLA (1995-96).
Carl McGown, father of current BYU head coach Chris McGown, led BYU to its first National Championship in 1999. After 10 years at the helm, Carl McGown assembled one of the greatest collegiate volleyball teams ever, posting a record of 30-1 during the 1999 season. The Cougars avenged their lone loss of the season by defeating Long Beach State to capture the University’s first-ever volleyball National Championship title.
In 2001, Carl McGown led BYU to its second National Championship over UCLA. The Cougars served the Bruins just its seventh defeat, dating back to the 1990 season. BYU swept UCLA in Long Beach, Calif., to mark its 15th three-game sweep during the season.
The Cougars reached the National Championship match in 2003 but fell to Lewis, who later forfeited its championship after an investigation found the team played an ineligible athlete.
BYU’s most recent National Championship came in 2004 as Tom Peterson led the Cougars to a five-set victory over Long Beach State in Hawai’i. The Cougars defeated the 49ers four times during the year, with three of the wins going to five games.
If BYU wins on Saturday, Chris and Carl McGown would become the first father-son combination to coach the same school to an NCAA championship in the same sport.
In addition to being televised on ESPNU, the match is available online at WatchESPN.com. Tickets can be purchased at UCLAbruins.com.