(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
LOS ANGELES – The No. 1-seed BYU men’s volleyball team ended its successful season with a tough 3-0 loss to No. 2-seed UC Irvine (25-23, 25-22, 26-24) in the NCAA National Championships Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
“I told the boys in the locker room what wonderful season it's been,” head coach Chris McGown said. “It was a remarkable run by these guys. I'm so proud of our team for what they represent and the way they represent BYU and the way they carried themselves all season and battled.”
BYU finishes the season 26-5 while fellow Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponent UC Irvine ends at 25-7.
Junior Taylor Sander led both teams with 20 kills, four digs and three blocks. Three Anteaters recorded 11 kills apiece. UC Irvine recorded a .383 hitting percentage to BYU’s .274 clip. The Anteaters won the battle at the net, out-blocking BYU 17.0 – 6.0.
Sander and freshman Ben Patch were named to the all-tournament team.
"We were, as you can imagine, disappointed in the result,” McGown said. “I thought that UCI played inspired volleyball.”
The teams exchanged points to kick off the match until BYU took the first two-point advantage, 6-4, off a Cougar block. Sander widened the gap to three with a kill but a 5-2 Anteater run put them back on top at 15-14.
Kills from Sander and Patch tied the set at 18 and it would remain close until BYU went up 23-22. Back-to-back points by UC Irvine flipped the score in its favor as it went 24-23 for set point. The Anteaters finished the set off with a kill to go up 1-0 in the match.
BYU took a 6-3 lead in the second set following a Patch ace. A service ace from Josue Rivera gave the Cougars a four-point lead and sparked a 5-0 BYU run for the 11-4 advantage. The Anteaters, however, answered with a 5-0 run of their own to cut the lead to two before a kill by Patch ended the run.
UC Irvine marched on with a 5-1 run to take over the lead, 14-13. The Anteaters took a two-point lead 22-20 before a kill by Sander cut it back to one. A kill and attack error gave UC Irvine the 25-22 set win and a 2-0 match lead.
The Anteaters hit .429 and .448 in the first and second set, respectively.
Set three saw another close start before UC Irvine took the 12-10 lead. The Cougars went back on top 14-13 but the Anteaters quickly took the lead back with a pair of points. The contest tied at 16’s, 17’s and 18’s until a 3-0 BYU run, with a pair of Rivera kills, put the Cougars on top 22-19.
Sander kills pushed BYU closer to a win, 24-21, but the Anteaters rattled off a 4-0 run to set up match point at 25-24. UC Irvine recorded its 17th block of the match to win its second-straight National Championship.
BYU has reached the NCAA Final Four five times and gone on to win the National Championship three times (1999, 2001 and 2004).
The Cougars held the No. 1 national ranking this season for 11 of the 15 regular-season weeks, including the final seven. BYU was No. 2 in the preseason poll behind No. 1 UC Irvine.
Head coach Chris McGown was named the MPSF and AVCA Coach of the Year in just his second season at the helm.
BYU is now 8-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament, with its other loss coming to Lewis in the 2003 title match, which the NCAA later vacated.
The Cougars won the 2013 MPSF regular season and tournament title. This year marked their fourth MPSF tournament championship (1999, 2003, 2004 and 2013).
Since winning the first MPSF title in 1999, BYU has captured more championships than any other team. The Cougars have five titles in that 15-year stretch.
Taylor Sander was named the MPSF Player of the Year and Ben Patch was named the MPSF Freshman of the Year. Patch also garnered AVCA National Newcomer of the Year.