PROVO, Utah — Senior Brenden Sander led No. 4 BYU men's volleyball to victory over No. 2 UCLA in four sets (17-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-21) for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"It was an exciting match to be a part of," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Congrats to our opponent UCLA for being here. They battled. It was a hard-fought volleyball match and more than anything I am excited for this team. I am super happy for them. They have put in a lot of work for this moment."
Sander led the team with 18 kills, five blocks and two service aces. Gabi Garcia Fernandez followed with 12 kills, seven digs, four blocks and two aces. Leo Durkin tallied 37 assists while Zach Hendrickson recorded a career-high 11 digs.
Back-to-back blocks by Sander, Fernandez and Felipe de Brito Ferreira was followed by a service ace by Durkin to put the Cougars on top 3-1 in set one. The Bruins fought to even the game at 10-all, but a kill by Sander kept UCLA from taking their first lead. After the two teams exchanged points in the following possessions, the Bruins managed to score seven points in a row to take a 19-13 advantage. The Cougars were unable to put together another run and UCLA went on to take set one, 25-17.
In set two, BYU jumped to another quick start for a 3-0 lead. After falling behind, the Cougars went on a four-point run to take back the lead, 15-13, and force a timeout by UCLA. With the set tied at 18-all, Fernandez recorded back-to-back kills to give BYU a 20-18 advantage. At set point, another kill by Fernandez gave the Cougars set two, 25-21.
The Bruins took an early 4-0 lead in set three, forcing a quick BYU timeout. The Cougars rallied to even the game at 6-all. Kills by Sander, Ferreira and Fernandez put BYU on top 12-9. A service error by UCLA was followed by an ace by Fernandez to increase the Cougars' lead to 18-12. Another kill by Sander put BYU at set point and a service error gave the Cougars set three, 25-18.
After trailing 2-1 in set four, BYU rallied to take a 12-7 lead after back-to-back blocks by Sander and Ferreira. Two-straight kills by Sander kept the Cougars on top, 19-15. The Bruins brought the game within two-points, 22-21, but kills by Sander and Fernandez sent BYU to match point. An attack error by UCLA ultimately gave BYU the set and match, 25-21.
At the conclusion of the match, Sander, Durkin and Fernandez were named to the all-tournament team and Sander was named the Most Valuable Player.
The Cougars will receive the conference's automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, California. The selection show will take place on Sunday, Apr. 22, at 11 a.m. MDT and will be streamed live on NCAA.com.