(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Brenden Sander helped No. 3 seed BYU men’s volleyball upset No. 2 seed Long Beach State in straight sets (25-20, 25-18, 25-23) Thursday night at St. John Arena to advance to the national championship match of the NCAA Tournament.
“First of all, a huge congrats to Long Beach on their spectacular season,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I'm pretty speechless with this group of guys. Sometimes in coaching I get caught up in watching these guys compete. Just the performance that these guys put in tonight was incredible.”
Sander led the Cougars with a season-high tying 15 kills on a .619 clip. Leo Durkin set the team with 34 assists and Erik Sikes had eight digs. Jake Langlois contributed four aces and Tim Dobbert had 11 kills in the win.
Long Beach State (27-4) got off to a 4-1 lead in the first set against BYU (26-4), but the Cougars scored the next five-straight points to go up 6-4. BYU stayed ahead until a 3-1 spurt from the 49ers evened the score at 9-all. Sander’s fifth hit and kill helped the Cougars take a 16-13 advantage, and consecutive Long Beach State attack errors extended the BYU lead to four at 20-16. The Cougars cruised from there, taking the set 25-20 on another Sander kill.
Back-to-back-to-back aces from Langlois helped BYU get off to a 5-2 start in the second set. The Cougars were up by as many as four at 8-4 until the 49ers stormed back to get within one, down 10-9. A 4-1 Cougar run followed, capped off by a Joseph Grosh kill, to re-extend BYU’s advantage to four at 14-10. An ace from Wil Stanley forced Long Beach State into a timeout with the Cougars up 21-15. BYU then took the set 25-18 on a Grosh kill.
Sander got the third set started with an ace, but the 49ers came out strong after that, going up 9-5 on an ace. A trio of kills from Dobbert helped BYU get back within two, down 11-9, and a Sander kill kept the Cougars within striking distance trailing 15-12. An out-of-system kill from Dobbert forced a timeout from Long Beach State with the 49ers leading 19-17. BYU then tied the score at 22 following a Dobbert kill and block. A Langlois ace gave the Cougars set point and a final Sander kill ended the set and match 25-23.
The Cougars return to action at St. John Arena for the national championship match Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m. EDT, against the winner of No. 4 seed Hawai’i and No. 1 seed Ohio State. The match will televised live on ESPN2.