(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Brenden Sander led No. 1 seed BYU men's volleyball past No. 4 seed Long Beach State in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18) Thursday night at Penn State's Rec Hall to advance to the national championship match.
"I just want to say hats off to Long Beach State," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "I anticipated a great match and it was. They're a well-coached team. They pushed our players. It was a fun match to be a part of. I was happy with our boys' composure after losing that second set and going into the third. We made some really good decisions from there."
Sander led the Cougars with 14 kills and no attack errors to hit on a .583 clip. Ben Patch quietly put together a 13 kill night, and Michael Hatch contributed five blocks. Leo Durkin set the offense with 42 assists while Erik Sikes chipped in a team-high eight digs.
BYU (27-3) and Long Beach State (26-7) each collected points on a handful of service errors with the score tied 6-6 at the beginning of the first set. A Price Jarman dump kill gave the Cougars the 12-11 edge, and a 49er attack error gave BYU a 15-13 lead at the first timeout. A Hatch and Sander block ended a lengthy rally that put the Cougars ahead 18-15. The teams traded points from there as a Robbie Sutton ace extended BYU's advantage to four points, 23-19. A Jarman kill gave the Cougars set point and a Sander kill ended the set 25-21 for BYU.
A kill and block from Hatch gave the Cougars a 2-0 edge early in the second set. Long Beach State responded with a 4-1 run to go on top 4-3 with an ace. Sander collected an overpass kill to help BYU retake the advantage at 11-10 and a 49er attack error extended the lead to three at 15-12. Long Beach State quickly countered with another 4-1 run to knot the score up at 16 apiece. It remained neck-to-neck from there, as back-to-back blocks gave the Cougars a 20-19 edge. With the set tied at 23-all, the 49ers scored the next two points to take the close set 25-23.
BYU jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, capped off by a Sander ace. Long Beach State came back within two, down 6-4, but three-consecutive 49er attack errors gave the Cougars a 9-4 lead. BYU maintained its lead at 14-8 after a Long Beach State service error, but a 3-1 49er rally brought them back within three at 17-14. A Jake Langlois kill gave the Cougars a 20-15 advantage and forced a Long Beach State timeout. BYU stayed ahead to the end of the set, picking up a 25-19 win from a Langlois ace.
The fourth set began with the Cougars taking a 4-1 lead following another block from Hatch and Langlois. BYU struggled after a timeout, allowing the 49ers to go ahead for the first time in the set, 6-5. The Cougars eventually turned things around, as consecutive Langlois aces put his team back ahead 12-7. Long Beach State took its final timeout of the set as BYU extended its lead to seven at 17-10. BYU maintained its large lead from there, taking the set and match 25-18 on a Patch kill.
The Cougars return to action at Rec Hall Saturday, May 7, at 8 p.m. EDT and will face No. 3 seed Ohio State. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 as well as BYU Radio - Sirius XM 143. Links to live stats and video/audio feeds can be found on the BYU men's volleyball schedule page. Tickets to the championship match can be purchased on Penn State's ticket page.