(Photo by BYU Photo/Jonathan Hardy)
PROVO, Utah – The No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team rose to the occasion in 2013, claiming the MPSF championship and regular-season title with a 26-5 record while also reaching the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2004.
The 2013 season was Chris McGown’s second as head coach of the Cougars. McGown garned AVCA National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year accolades. He has a 50-12 overall record as BYU’s head coach.
The Cougars picked up three AVCA All-America honors with junior Taylor Sander and freshman Ben Patch named first-team All-Americans while Russ Lavaja earned second-team All-America honors. In addition, Patch was named the AVCA National Newcomer of the Year.
Volleyball Magazine awarded four Cougars All-America honors. Sander and Patch represented BYU as first-team All-Americans while Lavaja was named to the second team. Sophomore Josue Rivera was a third-team honoree. Volleyball Magazine also recognized Sander as the National Player of the Year and Patch as the Freshman of the Year.
BYU swept the MPSF awards, with Sander being named the Player of the Year and Patch earning Freshman of the Year, along with McGown’s Coach of the Year honor.
The Cougars held the No. 1 national ranking for 11 of the 15 regular-season weeks, including the final seven weeks of the season. BYU finished the season with the best hitting percentage and blocks average in the MPSF.
The Cougars rode a 12-match win streak from Feb. 16 to April 5, the longest in the MPSF. During the span, BYU went undefeated in March (8-0) for just the second time in program history.
BYU lead the nation in home attendance for the second straight year and captured a 17-2 record in the Smith Fieldhouse.
After sweeping USC March 30, BYU secured the No. 1 seed in the MPSF tournament, the earliest date the top seed has been clinched during the rally-scoring era. In the next match, the Cougars secured the MPSF regular season title, which they won by three matches.
The Cougars hosted the MPSF tournament as the No. 1-seed. BYU rallied for a 3-2 win over No. 8-seed Hawai’i before a comeback performance over No. 4-seed UCLA 3-2 in an unforgettable semifinal matchup. The Cougars rolled past No. 3-seed Long Beach State 3-0 to win the MPSF Championships and earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 2004.
In the NCAA tournament, making their fifth appearance in school history, the Cougars continued their momentum with a sweep of No. 4-seed Penn State. BYU faced off against MPSF opponent UC Irvine in the title match where the Cougars dropped the contest, 3-0.
In addition to his All-America honor, freshman Patch took home two AVCA National Player of the Week and two MPSF Player of the Week awards. He was the first player to ever earn National Player of the Week in consecutive weeks. Sander also picked up an AVCA National Player of the Week while Ryan Boyce grabbed an AVCA and MPSF Player of the Week honor.
Patch earned recognition at BYU as well, earning the Male Rookie of the Year at the Y Awards.
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, the Cougars lose two seniors from their starting lineup in setter Boyce and middle blocker Lavaja. Lavaja finished his career as one of only three players to record 100+ blocks all four seasons and is No. 2 at BYU in total blocks in the rally-scoring era. The team also loses seniors Steve Rindfleisch and Erik Mayer.
Patch will also be absent on the BYU starting lineup while he serves a two-year LDS mission.
The team returns three starters in Sander, outside hitter Rivera and libero Jaylen Reyes. Michael Hatch and Devin Young also return after sharing starting middle blocker duties in 2013.