(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – In 2016, BYU men’s volleyball ended its season with an outright Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season and tournament title before advancing to the national championship match of the NCAA tournament.
In his first season leading the men’s volleyball team, head coach Shawn Olmstead guided the Cougars to a 27-4 overall record and a 19-3 league record.
BYU began the season ranked No. 1 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll and was picked to finish first in the preseason conference poll. With the loss in the national championship match, the Cougars ended the season ranked No. 2 in the AVCA poll while receiving one first-place vote.
Olmstead maintained a core group of starters throughout the season, helped significantly by sophomore opposite Ben Patch, who amassed a team-high 4.32 kills per set (402 total).
At the outside hitter position, sophomore Brenden Sander collected 3.19 kills per set (335 total) and junior Jake Langlois picked up 2.99 kills per set (293 total). BYU finished the season with the No. 1 highest hitting percentage in the nation, hitting at a .360 clip.
At libero, sophomore Erik Sikes averaged 2.01 digs per set (195 total) in his first season as a starter. Also, first-year starting sophomore Leo Durkin collected 10.54 assists per set (1,117 total) as the team’s setter.
Senior Michael Hatch and sophomore Price Jarman helped BYU at the middle blocker position this year with each averaging 1.39 and 1.31 blocks per set (149 and 141 total), respectively. The Cougars finished as the No. 1 blocking team in the nation (3.13 per set).
Four players collected AVCA All-America honors in 2016, led by Patch and Sander who received First Team honors, Langlois who was added to the Second Team and Durkin who picked up Honorable Mention accolades.
Six Cougars earned All-MPSF honors this year, including Patch, Sander and Langlois all being added to the First Team. Jarman and Durkin collected Second Team accolades and Hatch was named All-MPSF Honorable Mention. Additionally, Olmstead was named the MPSF Coach of the Year.
Other post-season honors included Patch being named the 2016 Bryan Ivie Award recipient, which is given to the best opposite in college men’s volleyball, as determined by Off the Block. Additionally, Hatch received the Elite 90 Award for NCAA Division I Men’s Volleyball for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in his business major while being a significant contributor to his team.
Also on the academic side of the net, seven Cougars collected MPSF All-Academic honors. Durkin, Hatch, Jarman, Langlois, Patch, Sikes and Robbie Sutton were all named to the conference list for maintaining at least a 3.00 GPA and being a significant contributor to his team.
Both Patch and Langlois were named the MPSF Player of the Week during two weeks of the regular season. Additionally, Patch was named the AVCA Player of the Week after leading his team to a pair of road wins at Hawai’i.
BYU started out the season hosting the AVCA Showcase, beating the previous defending national champions Loyola-Chicago and George Mason. The Cougars then started conference play at home, with BYU splitting a pair of five-set decisions with Stanford.
The Cougars split the next series on the road at Long Beach State before winning the next 11 matches in sweeps, a BYU record. After 13 wins, the Cougars fell at home to Pepperdine for just their third loss of the season.
BYU quickly regrouped, winning its final six matches of the regular season, including winning both matches on the road at then No. 1 UCLA – a feat never before accomplished by a previous Cougars squad.
The team ended the regular season as the conference champions and hosted the conference tournament for the third time in the past four years. After a conference tournament title with wins against UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, BYU was named the No. 1 overall seed of the NCAA tournament.
The Cougars then traveled to University Park, Pa., beating Long Beach State in the Final Four to advance to the national championship match. BYU lost its final match to Ohio State for just its fourth loss of the season.
The team loses six seniors going into next season, but just one starter in Hatch.