(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – Double-digit kills from Ben Patch and Brenden Sander led No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball to a 3-1 win (25-20, 25-19, 18-25, 25-15) over No. 3 UCLA in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“I just want to say hats off to UCLA on a remarkable conference tournament," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "We will probably see that team again pretty soon. I'm excited for the guys. I'm really impressed with their composure in the third set and how they were able to rebound really well in the fourth set. I'm just happy for them. I can't thank our coaches and everyone who helps us enough. I hope the guys continue to enjoy it and continue to get better."
Patch was named the MPSF Tournament MVP with Sander and Leo Durkin on the All-Tournament Team. UCLA’s Micah Ma’a and Jake Arnitz were also named to the All-Tournament Team, as were Kyle Ensing of Long Beach State and Ryan Hardy from UC Santa Barbara.
BYU (26-3, 19-3 MPSF) defeated the error-plagued UCLA (25-6, 17-5 MPSF) in the championship game, winning the tournament title for the first time since 2014. The Bruins had 27 service errors and 18 attack errors in the four-set loss.
Patch had team-highs in kills and digs with 14 and eight, respectively, while Sander had 11 kills, six digs and two aces. Durkin had 31 assists and five digs in the win. Jake Langlois added eight kills, three digs and one ace to the winning effort.
The Cougars got off to a sluggish start in the first set, earning their first three points from the Bruins’ errors. Sander tooled the block for the first BYU kill of the match, ending a 3-0 UCLA run to cut the deficit to 6-5. After trading points back and forth, Sander’s tough serving led the Cougars on a 5-0 run that included a kill and an ace from the sophomore outside hitter, putting BYU up 16-13. The Cougars earned another point after Durkin hustled to keep the ball alive and the Bruins hit the ball out of bounds, putting BYU up 21-19. Sander had another ace and a back row kill to finish the set with four-unanswered points, giving the Cougars the 25-20 victory.
Patch killed the ball for three of BYU’s first four points in the second set, including one that was made possible by Sander’s perfect one-handed save from the tough serve, putting the Cougars up 4-2. Patch and Langlois had a kill apiece to spark BYU on a 3-0 run, extending the lead to 9-5. Service errors plagued UCLA, missing three in a row and nine in the set. The Bruins hit a second-consecutive attack out of bounds after Robbie Sutton had two strong digs and a hustle play to keep the play going, capping off three points in a row and pushing the lead to 18-13. Langlois scored three of the last six points in the set, one ace and two kills. At set point, he slammed the ball down the line for the 25-19 win, giving BYU the 2-0 set advantage.
Errors continued to hurt UCLA in the third set, giving BYU its first four points. After getting behind by two, Sander killed the ball from the outside to tie the game, and another kill from Michael Hatch tied it again at 7-7. Three unanswered points from the Bruins forced Olmstead to call a timeout, but the run continued, making it a 5-0 run and a 12-7 deficit for the Cougars. Back-to-back back row kills from Sander and Patch put BYU within one, 14-13, until UCLA responded with a 6-1 rally to get its lead back up to 20-14. Hitting errors from the Cougars gave the Bruins a chance to glide to a 25-18 set three win, avoiding the sweep.
The BYU block came alive in the fourth set, earning the first two points. Five errors from the Bruins allowed the Cougars to go on a 5-1 run just on those mistakes, extending the lead to 10-6. Patch ended a long rally with a tool off the block to push the advantage to 13-7, causing the crowd to erupt and UCLA to call a timeout. Langlois earned a kill on Durkin’s diving set to make it 18-11 in favor of BYU. Two-straight kills from Price Jarman sealed the 25-15 win, giving the Cougars the 3-1 match win.
BYU now awaits its NCAA tournament seeding. The selections will be announced Sunday, April 24, at 11 a.m. MT and will be streamed live on NCAA.com.