Sander leads BYU to second consecutive MPSF tournament title

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – Taylor Sander led No. 1 seed BYU to its second consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship title with a sweep (25-23, 25-22, 25-22) over No. 3 seed Stanford.

“I thought we put together a wonderful tournament,” BYU head coach Chris McGown said. “There were some questions about our team going into it. We backed our way into it with a couple of tough road weekends, but we put that behind us and played great the whole way through.”

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Sander had a team-high 15 kills and two aces to tie the BYU single-season record (51) in the rally-scoring era. Robbie Sutton contributed 29 assists and Devin Young added six kills, an ace and a match-high four block assists. Sander was named the MPSF tournament MVP and was joined by Sutton and Young on the all-tournament team.

As a team, BYU (21-8, 18-6 MPSF) had six aces to only one for Stanford (22-8, 17-7 MPSF) and doubled the Cardinal in blocks 8-4. The Cougars ended the MPSF tournament without losing a single set. The win also extended BYU’s longest home-court winning streak to 26 matches and snapped Stanford’s 13-match winning streak.

BYU is the second team in MPSF history to take the tournament title with three straight sweeps. The only other team to do so was the 1997 Stanford team.

BYU began the first set with a lot of energy going on a 4-0 run to take an 8-3 lead behind strong serving from Josue Rivera, including an ace. Stanford kept things close until Sander put down two kills with authority in a small 3-0 run to help BYU extend the lead back to five at 16-11.

The Cardinal didn’t back down and battled back to within one at 21-20, forcing a Cougar timeout. Young led a 3-0 charge out of the timeout with two kills and a block assist to get BYU to set point, leading 24-20. Stanford answered with three points in a row to make it 24-23, but a service error gave BYU the set one victory.

Stanford opened the second set with four straight points, but the Cougars fought their way back with three straight, including Sander’s second ace. Sander hit one off the block to give BYU its first lead of set two at 8-7. After Stanford briefly retook the lead at 10-8, Sander highlighted a 6-0 BYU run with two kills, a block assist and a perfect set to Tim Dobbert for the kill.

The Cardinal used several small runs to retake a 17-16 lead. With Stanford clinging to a 19-17 lead, the Cougars scored three of the next four points to tie the set at 20. Stanford called a timeout to slow BYU’s momentum after back-to-back kills by Sander gave the Cougars a 22-21 lead. Tied at 22, BYU ended the set with three straight points.

The third set began with the teams trading points until Stanford scored three straight to take a 6-3 lead. BYU rallied, as it had all night, to tie the set at eight and taking its first lead at 11-10. Not to be out done, the Cardinal used a 3-0 run to retake a 14-12 lead. With the Cougars trailing 18-17, Dobbert led a 4-0 run with a kill and a block assist to give BYU the 21-18 lead. A block by Rivera and Young pushed the Cougars’ lead to 23-19 and gave them the cushion they needed to close out the sweep.

The Cougars earned an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament in Chicago and wait for their seeding, which will be announced Sunday at 11 a.m. EDT. The selection show can be streamed live at NCAA.com.

MPSF All-Tournament Team

Matt West, Pepperdine

Jake Staahl, UC Santa Barbara

Brian Cook, Stanford

James Shaw, Stanford

Robbie Sutton, BYU

Devin Young, BYU

MVP- Taylor Sander, BYU