Sander powers top-seed BYU past Penn State and into NCAA title match

One day after not winning National Player of the Year, BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander made his case on the court for why he should have won the award.

Sander had a match-high 17 kills as the No. 1 seed BYU swept the No. 4 seed Penn State 25-21, 25-16, 25-22 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Los Angeles to advance to the national championship match.


Sander in the victory did not have an attack error until the third game and was one of two BYU players to finish with double-digit kills. Freshman All-American outside attacker Ben Patch also had 12 kills against Penn State.

BYU held Penn State to less than a .100 attack percentage in the first two games of the sweep as they out-hit the Nittany Lions .345 to .151.

Sander and libero Jaylen Reyes also led BYU players with seven digs.

BYU making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 out-blocked Penn State 12.5 to 2. Middle attacker Devin Young in the victory had a match-high seven blocks, while Patch added six blocks.

In addition, the Nittany Lions did not have block until the third game when they had two blocks in the three-point loss.

Penn State in the third game jumped out to a 6-1 run before BYU rallied back to tie the game at 20. The Cougars closed out the match on a 4-1 run, including a match-winning kill from outside attacker Josue Rivera on a long rally that lasted more than 45 seconds.

A reason for Penn State’s comeback victory in the third game was a setter change. Coach Chris McGown with BYU trailing by four in the game opted to replace starter Ryan Boyce with Tyler Heap, who finished the match with a team-high 18 assists and an ace.

With the second game tied at 11, the Cougars went on a 8-2 run and led by as many as nine points to take a two-game lead in the match.

BYU led by as many as seven points in the opening game and held Penn State to a .080 attack percentage. Outside attacker Taylor Sander also led the Cougars with five kills and an ace in the first-game victory.

Penn State has now been eliminated in the NCAA Tournament semifinals for three consecutive years. The loss against the Cougars was the first time the Nittany Lions have been swept in the semifinals since 2005, which was last time the NCAA Tournament was held at UCLA.

With this victory, BYU advances to play the UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament championship match at Saturday in Los Angeles.

This is the second consecutive year that two MPSF teams will met in the championship match. UC Irvine last season swept USC to win its third national title in program history.