Cougars earn four All-America honors, National Player of Year, Freshman of Year

(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah - Four Cougars earned Volleyball Magazine All-America honors, with the magazine also naming Taylor Sander the National Player of the Year and Ben Patch the Freshman of the Year.

BYU led all teams with four All-America selections. Stanford, UC Irvine and UCLA each had three players earn Volleyball Magazine All-America honors.

Sander and Patch represented BYU as first-team All-Americans while senior Russ Lavaja was named to the second team. Sophomore Josue Rivera was a third team honoree.

Sander, a junior, finished in the nation's top five with a 3.94 kills-per-game average and led BYU to the NCAA Championship match for the first time since 2004. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter led the Cougars in 2013 in kills (461), aces (42) and digs (178). Sander holds BYU's all-time record for career aces (127) by more than 35 aces with a year left in his college career.

Hailing from Huntington Beach, Calif., Sander has garnered All-America honors each of his three seasons at BYU. Sander was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year and an AVCA first-team All-American earlier this year.

Patch, a 6-foot-8 opposite from Provo, Utah, became the first player in AVCA history to earn the AVCA Player of the Week honor in consecutive weeks after being selected the weeks of Feb. 26 and March 5. Patch set a BYU rally-scoring record 35 kills in a comeback victory over UC Irvine on the road. He finished the season second on the team in kills with 418.

Patch earned the title of Freshman of the Year from the MPSF and AVCA, while also being named to the AVCA All-America First Team.

Lavaja is just one of three BYU players to record 100+ blocks in all four years. He leads all players at BYU with a record 426 sets played in. The middle blocker is second in the rally-scoring era in total blocks with 584. Lavaja led the Cougars this season with a .427 hitting percentage, 110 block assists and 113 total blocks. This is the second All-America honor for the St. Charles, Ill., native, who was named to the 2013 AVCA All-America Second Team.

Rivera, an MPSF Scholar Athlete, was named to the MPSF All-Tournament team after lifting BYU past UCLA in the MPSF Quarterfinals with a season-high 19 kills and .483 hitting percentage, while adding six blocks. The Puerto Rico native finished the season with 228 kills, 19 aces, 123 digs and 84 total blocks.

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