(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
On reaching the NCAA semifinals:
We’re grateful to be here and feel like we’re in excellent company. Stanford, Loyola and Penn State are marvelous volleyball teams and programs. We’re excited to be here and compete this weekend after what for us has been a remarkable regular season and what I thought was a very well-played tournament championship. I thought the boys worked really hard the weeks prior to the MPSF championship and were highly focused. We saw the results of a whole season of good practices and dedication to good principles and our values.
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On playing Stanford a fourth time:
As good a team as Stanford is, it is tough. I think the counterpoint to that is their experience playing BYU and us playing really well. So that’s hopefully what they remember and that’s hopefully what’s in the back of their minds, “Boy, we played really well against them and BYU played great. BYU answered at every point and in the tough moments, BYU was the team that was able to turn some things.”
Obviously, it’s really hard to beat them once, let alone multiple times. I think the thing I like about it is the fact that we won all those. It’s the message that’s in our heads and perhaps maybe in their heads.
On Ben Patch going on a mission:
It’s been interesting to look at [the opposite hitter] position. Tim has kind of solidified that spot over the last four to five weeks, but we’ve had big, big contributions from three different guys. Carson Heninger came in and won matches for us at the start of the year. He had a five-setter against Irvine where he was the one that won the match for us. We had Matt Underwood come in as a sub against Santa Barbara at home and play really well. Matt has played great in a number of different matches. I think it helped having the competition at that position. We were acutely aware that we needed to do a good job of training and helping those guys become better.
At the start of the year we talked about it. We said, “Look, Ben is this big offensive presence, and he’s going to make your jaw drop three or four times a match with what he can do athletically. But let’s take a look at the overall picture and see if we can put together a point-scoring package that kind of replicates what he was able to do.” The combination of doing things besides hitting the ball doesn’t substitute for Ben, but certainly has done a nice job to compliment the rest of the team.
On BYU’s road record:
It’s hard in our league to go on the road. When we came out [to Loyola and Lewis], these are good teams out here. We just get out of rhythm and we get into their home environment, and it’s tough. It’s really competitive. At the end of the year, we went on the road two successive weekends and played good teams, three of which were on their Senior Nights, so they’ve got all this built-up emotion going on. After coming off a Hawaii trip where we got in on a redeye Monday morning, we turned around and had to go to Southern California on a Thursday to go play. It’s difficult. Road trips like that are hard and they’re physically demanding, and then you go play teams that are wonderful teams. The fact that we lost on the road wasn’t surprising. Teams in their own gym are really good. The level of competition in our conference is so high, that if you’re not at your best at those moments, it’s not inconceivable that you could put up some L’s.
On having an advantage for already playing Loyola:
You know, it’s hard to quantify that. Certainly there’s probably an advantage, but how much of an advantage I couldn’t venture to say. There’s something about having some familiarity with knowing where to park and how to walk into the gym and knowing where we’re going around campus. Just having some familiarity with the environment, I think there’s subtle value in that. We’ll take any subtleties we can get to help us have a little bit of an advantage.
On returning to the NCAA tournament:
More than anything, at the start of the year we said, we’ve got an opportunity to work hard every day and to try to get better every day. We’ve got the personnel that could conceivably be back in a national championship match, but a lot of things have to go our way, and we’ve got to put a lot of work in between now and then. I think those two things have happened. Some things have gone our way, some guys have stepped up, and I think mostly what this is is just a function of the body of work that our team put in over the course of the year.
We looked at it at the start of the year and said “Look, everybody’s got people back. UCI returns almost their whole roster, Stanford’s got their whole roster back, Long Beach has got basically their whole roster back. Hawai’i’s going to be good; Santa Barbara’s going to be good; UCLA’s terrifying, because they have virtually everybody back.” To think that we’d be here maybe smacked a little of conceit, so we didn’t want to say yeah, we’re absolutely going to be in this match. What we said was we’ve got a chance if we work really, really hard. I think the guys believe that and they did that. Then having been here last year in this position, I think for sure it’s easier this time around. It’s easier for me, anyway. I feel it in my emotions, in my nerves and everything about it. There’s a familiarity that didn’t exist before. I kind of know what to expect. I think the timing of it for me has been a much smoother and easier experience. I’m hopeful it’s the same thing for the guys.
On Ben Patch going on a mission:
It’s super hard losing Ben. He brought so much to our team, but we were able to work so hard this year and do things to replace him. We put together an amazing season without him. He’s a big loss, but at the same time we’ve been able to do a good job at replacing him and creating this team that can still win a national championship. Tim Dobbert has come in. He does a great job at blocking and attacking. Ben has a lot more offense than Tim, but Tim’s been able to work into our offense, and we’ve been able to win in different ways other than Ben killing the ball.
On losing in the championship match last year:
Last year was a bummer. You work so hard all year, and to come up a couple points short in each set is frustrating. We’ve really learned from that, and we’ve got some experience to carry on into this tournament. We’re just excited to play with our team as seniors.
On Stanford’s Brian Cook:
I’ve played with him, played against him. He’s one of my good friends. It’s always fun going up against people that you know and that are good competitors.
On his legacy in college volleyball:
I’m never really satisfied. I always want to get better, and that’s kind of where I want to keep my head. I’ve got a lot of work to go to be one of the best. I just want to be able to stay humble and just keep working and keep working so that I can reach my potential. I feel like I have so much more to work with and to get better at.
On returning for his senior season:
I was 100 percent committed to return after we lost last year. I love this team and I love BYU, so why not chase a national championship again. We’ve got ourselves to the Final Four, and that’s huge. It’s one of the hardest things to do, just to get to this tournament.
On his brother signing with BYU:
I’m so excited for him and for my family to have him back at BYU. He’s a great player. I’m excited to be able to watch him on BYUtv and be one of his biggest fans.
On losing in the championship match last year:
It was a terrible feeling last year to be on that court with another team celebrating a national championship. We definitely learned from that, and that’s driven us this whole year to get back to where we’re at now. Like we said, we don’t have the same personnel or the same All-Americans as we had last year, but I think just remembering that has been able to push us this year.
On blocking Stanford:
They’ve got two incredible outside hitters, along with a middle who has the highest hitting percentage in the MPSF, possibly in the nation. Then you add that in with a setter who’s huge. They’ve got lots of options, and as a blocker that poses a lot of challenges. You’ve got to be ready for everything coming from Stanford.