For the first time in almost a decade, BYU is back in the national championship match.
The No. 1 seed BYU overcame a five-point deficit in the third game to complete the sweep against the No. 4 seed Penn State in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Following the match, the coaches and players from both BYU and Penn State addressed the media in a postmatch news conference. Check out what each team had to say about the semifinal match.
Chris McGown, BYU coach: You know, we did, I thought a lot of things really well. I was really proud of our defensive effort. We, I thought, got a lot of nice touches at the net and were able as the match went on to kind of convert on some of those touches and then we also blocked a lot of balls which was nice. We’d have liked to be a little cleaner from the service line. You know, it was a match that we needed to kind of feel our way through to some extent and I thought that was fairly emblematic of the way we played all season long, just kind of grinding out wins. We had some big contributions from some players that came in–Phil Fuchs did a nice job as a serving sub, got us some nice points in the second set, and then Mike Hatch did a nice job subbing, got a stuff and served some tough balls in the third set when we needed to come back a little bit. We also had wonderful offensive performances with Taylor and Ben and they kind of carried us offensively. Ultimately we’re really happy to have won a match in three sets against a very good Penn State team and a team for whom we have a lot of respect. [We’re] excited to be going on to the next round.
Media question: Can you comment on the play of freshman outside attacker Ben Patch?
Chris McGown: You know, it’s always interesting to see how we’re going to come out. You know, we have talked all week along about the fact that we are in no way taking this match for granted. That we’re going to play as hard as we possibly can. We had a lot of respect for Penn State and what they’d accomplished this season and so to see us come out with some success early and to kind of get a feel for what we can do and what we’re capable of and what they were capable of, I thought was big and Ben, of course, was a big contributor to that and you know overall, he did a lot of really nice things on the night. Offensively, he was really good. He was in good spots, I thought, at the net as a defender there and then just took a lot of smart swings when we sent him a lot of bailout sets, `Here you are, it’s up high. Go get it,’ and most every one of the swings he took was an intelligent swing. If he didn’t have what he wanted, he didn’t hurt himself and I was really proud of the way he handled that.
Media question: Why did you decide to sub Tyler Heap in at setter to replace Ryan Boyce in the third game?
Chris McGown: Yeah, Tyler Heap’s been good off the bench for us and you know we kind of used him as a blocking sub, just a little bit bigger presence at the net over there from time to time with Boyce, but you know, it just felt like we weren’t running the offense the way we wanted to so balls were getting located in non-ideal spots for our hitters, and just, here’s a guy, that maybe is feeling loose on the bench and come in and give us a little bit of a different look. It felt like Penn State had kind of settled into how we were trying to run our offense. You know they were defending us a lot better, I thought, in the third, so Heap added both of those a little bit–a change of pace in terms of where we’re going to distribute the ball and then, just his location, I thought, while not wonderful early, he kind of settled in and started locating the ball really well.
Media question: Can you talk about getting down and coming back in third set?
Chris McGown: You know, [assistant coach] Rob Neilson, after the match in the locker room said there was never any doubt we were coming back in that third set and that really was kind of the feeling I had as well. I just felt like, alright, we dug a little hole, but now let’s go turn some points. We just kind of had that faith in our team, knowing that we’ve done it so many times and that we battled back and that one or two or three or four points doesn’t necessarily get to us. It’s just hey, let’s settle in and keep playing and understand that if we keep playing with the principles that we espouse that good things are ultimately going to happen.
Media question: Can you talk about outside attacker Taylor Sander’s performance tonight?
Chris McGown: You know, I think it’s fairly self evident. You know, he hit .556, which is lights out offensively, but there were a lot of plays that I saw him make in this match that I didn’t see him make last year. He was digging balls in the middle back and he made a bunch of really smart swings on back row sets that we gave him both… that we sent him
Taylor Sander, BYU outside attacker: It was a good match by us. We kind of struggled in the third set but we were able to battle through that and I think that’s been kind of what our team has been doing all season and just hanging in there through tough sets and playing hard volleyball, but I mean it’s nice to go on to the next round. That was a really good Penn State team and it’s going to be fun being able to play UCI on Saturday for the national championship.
Media question: Taylor, can you comment on the play of freshman outside attacker Ben Patch?
Taylor Sander: Ben’s been huge for us all year. He’s come along as one of the best players in the nation and I mean it’s so nice to play alongside of him and to have him carry us offensively on the right side. I mean, he’s a great player as you can see. He played great tonight on such a big stage.
Media question: Why was your team’s block so successful tonight?
Taylor Sander: You know, we were just reading the setter. We had a game plan, we kind of knew what their tendencies were a little bit and so we just got in those spots and made some really good moves on the hitters and think that was key, just sitting down and being able to read that setter and then serving tough. We missed a lot of serves, but we served tough when we needed to. That helped us get them out of rhythm and be able to get three blockers up in good spots.
Media question:What did you think about the large amount BYU volleyball fans in attendance tonight?
Ben Patch, BYU outside attacker: I mean, yeah, I mean BYU fans are always faithful wherever we go and you know, they show up big, especially for a game like this–this is the national championship and all year long they have been there for us, so I would expect nothing less for BYU fans to show up at the national championship.”
Moderator: Coach can you give an opening statement about the match.
Mark Pavlik, Penn State coach: I’d like to congratulate the Cougars on an outstanding year. I thought tonight when we did get them into trouble that we did have some success. Unfortunately, they got us into trouble a little before. There were a couple of stretches in game one and game two where they had separation from 15 (points) on, you couldn’t make that up. Game three, the serving came on, we blocked a little better. Defensively, I thought we played well through the entire match we just couldn’t convert on it. All in all, I think it’s something we can build on over the next couple of years. Getting a chance to play a team like that, I think our young team has grown this year.
Media question: Can you talk about BYU’s block tonight?
Mark Pavlik: The men’s game was won and lost at the net. BYU’s always had a strong blocking team. Those blocks came in transition early on. It’s something that we wanted to come in and be physical and we knew that there wasn’t a trade off.
Media question: What’s your thoughts about Sander?
Mark Pavlik: Taylor is really good. He is one of the top players in the country. We’ve got to find ways to slow him down, but you know he’s going to turn it on at any moment. His future is very bright. I think him in a USA jersey one day is looking very good for us.
Media question: What’s your thoughts about Patch?
Mark Pavlik: Ben does some things really well, he’s got that long body, and he’s got a silky smooth arm swing. I think he is just going to get better when he matures into that body and gets that natural strength and the Cougars put some weight on him.
Media question: Have any thoughts on the BYU and UC Irvine championship match?
Mark Pavlik: You got a very precise physical team at Irvine that’s well coached. You’ve got BYU that is this offensive juggernaut. They’ve got to stay in system against Irvine’s serving. BYU is very well coached when they knock Irvine off the net. Irvine’s got to deal with that block. It’s going to be a very good match — I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes five (sets).
Media question: Do you think your team was nervous going into the match?
Mark Pavlik: No, I think we were as loose as we’ve ever been. I think the one thing that you have to understand playing at this level is the physicality that stays from point one to point 25, there is no break. This is big boy volleyball for the entire match. That’s what I think the biggest advantage from coming here with this group is they’ve seen it.
Media question: Did you feel like you were in control of that third game being up early?
Aaron Russell, Penn State outside attacker: I thought we jumped on them pretty early and put the pressure on them pretty well. We had them in the first five and then they kind of flipped a switch and were able to chip back on our lead every now and then and get a good two for one on a serve returning. That turning point was huge.