(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah—In 2014, BYU men’s volleyball clinched its second straight league regular-season and tournament titles on its way to a 21-9 overall record and 18-6 conference record.
In his third season leading the Cougars, Chris McGown coached the team to his third 20-win season and second NCAA tournament appearance. McGown and the Cougars clinched the No. 1 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and a share of the regular-season MPSF crown March 29 in a victory against UCLA, setting a new league record for the earliest a team has secured the first seed. (The previous record was set by BYU in 2013.)
The Cougars ended their season in the NCAA tournament semifinals, falling to league-foe Stanford in five sets. In the first season of a six-team national championship format, No. 2 seed BYU received a bye into the second round.
Prior to the national tournament, the Cougars swept Stanford in the MPSF tournament final at the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU didn’t lose a single set in the conference tournament, also defeating UC Santa Barbara in three sets in the semifinals and USC in three in the quarterfinals.
The Cougars relied on senior Taylor Sander, who led the nation in points with 5.48 per set and was second in kills with 4.60 per set. A three-time first-team All-American during his time at BYU, Sander received the 2014 American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Year award, as well as MPSF Player of the Year, All-MPSF First Team, MPSF Tournament MVP, MPSF Player of the Week twice and AVCA Player of the Week.
BYU had three more All-MPSF awards in addition to Sander’s, with Devin Young earning second-team honors, Michael Hatch earning honorable mention and Tim Dobbert receiving all-freshman honors.
During his career Sander stamped his name in the BYU records books, securing two all-time and six rally-scoring era records. The outside hitter holds the BYU all-time single-match record for service aces (nine vs. UC San Diego, Jan. 18) and career service aces (182). In the rally-scoring era, Sander is No. 1 in career kills (1,743), career attempts (3,464), career service aces (182), season attempts (1,021 in 2014), season service aces (55 in 2014) and aces in a match (nine).
BYU bounced back from a rocky 0-2 start to the season (losses to NCAA tournament qualifiers Loyola Chicago and Lewis on the road), tallying a six-match win streak that included a home victory against then-No.1 Long Beach State. BYU split series with Long Beach State, Pepperdine, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Hawai’i was the only team to sweep the Cougars, and BYU swept regular-season series with seven league opponents.
Blocking played a role in the Cougars’ success, as the team averaged 2.96 blocks, which was third best in the nation. BYU also boasted the third-best individual block average in the country with Hatch’s 1.44 blocks per set. Over the course of the season, BYU averaged 12.60 kills per set, hit .300 and averaged 8.28 digs per set.
The Cougars made history in 2014, continuing a 25-match home win streak that stretches back to February 2013 and is the longest home win streak in BYU history. The team will look to extend that streak in 2015.
Once again, the Cougars made the top of the list in average attendance in the NCAA, bringing in 3,460 fans per contest in 2014. The next closest school was Hawai’i with 2,956.
BYU loses three seniors going into next season—All-American outside hitter Sander, all-conference middle blocker Young and middle blocker Nick Valencia. Sander immediately began practicing with the U.S. national team in preparation for FIVB World Championships.
Back for 2015 are starting middle blocker Hatch, outside hitter Josue Rivera, opposite hitter Dobbert, libero Jaylen Reyes and setter Tyler Heap. The Cougars add five to their number for 2015, including junior college transfer Ty Hutchins, Chandler Gibb, Christian Rupert, Sander’s younger brother Brenden Sander and Erik Sikes.
Following the end of the 2014 season, the Cougars traveled to Europe to play teams in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia.