One day after UC Irvine unveiled its latest national championship banner, All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander made sure BYU would win the NCAA finals rematch.
Sander had a season-high 25 kills as No. 8 BYU rallied from a one-game deficit to defeat No. 7 UC Irvine 19-25, 34-32, 21-25, 25-18, 15-12 on Friday in Irvine, Calif., for its third consecutive conference victory.
The 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year in the decisive fifth game had a game-high six kill. In addition, Sander had three kills on the final seven plays of the matches to secure the conference victory.
This was the first meeting between UC Irvine (2-4, 0-3 MPSF) and BYU (3-2, 3-0 MPSF) since the 2013 NCAA Tournament finals. The Anteaters in that championship match swept the Cougars to win their fourth title in the last seven years.
Sander was one of three Cougars with double-digit kills against UC Irvine. Outside attacker Carson Heninger had a career-high 17 kills, while outside attacker Josue Rivera added 12 kills.
Heinger and Sander also each had two kills during the 16-point second-game overtime — the longest overtime game for both teams so far this season.
Despite the loss, UC Irvine out-hit BYU .289 to .285. The Anteaters held the Cougars to a match-low .080 attack percentage in the opening game, but BYU rebounded to have more than a .350 attack percentage in the final two games.
Outside attacker Tamir Hershko in the loss had a team-high 25 kills.
UC Irvine middle attacker Collin Mehring also had a match-high six blocks as the Anteaters out-blocked the Cougars 12 to 9.
With this loss, the Anteaters have lost three consecutive MPSF matches to open their conference season. UC Irvine also now could be on the verge of dropping out of the national coaches poll top 10 for the first time in almost four years.
The Cougars remain undefeated in conference play after opening the season 0-2 on a Midwest road trip. BYU will continue its weekend road trip as it plays UC San Diego on Saturday.