BYU outside attacker Brendan Sander showed actually why he was an All-American in the Cougars’ biggest match of the season.
Sander had a match-high 14 kills and zero attack errors on a .583 attack percentage as BYU defeated Long Beach State 25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Sander, a finalist for the Karch Kiraly Award, was one of two Cougars to finish the match with double-digit kills in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. All-American opposite Ben Patch also had 13 kills agains the 49ers.
BYU out-hit Long Beach State .337 to .244 and had more than a .350 attack percentage in each of the final two games.
All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco in the loss had a match-high 23 kills on 47 attack attempts. DeFalco was the only 49er to finish with more than 10 kills and one of two 49ers with more than 12 attack attempts.
BYU had six aces in the victory. Outside attacker Jake Langlois also had back-to-back aces midway through the fourth game to give BYU a five-point lead that helped them secure the sevictory.
BYU opened the third game on a 5-2 run and led by as many as six points to move to take the game and within one game of the NCAA Tournament finals. The Cougars also hit a match-best .476 and committed two attack errors in their third-game victory.
Long Beach State benefitted from BYU late-game service errors and an overpass on game-point to win the second game and even the match at 1-1. In addition, DeFalco had seven kills in a second-game that featured 16 ties and seven lead changes.
Patch in the opening game had a team-high six kills while hitting .500 to lead the Cougars in the four-point victory. BYU was tied midway through the game before closing out the game on a 12-8 run.
DeFalco had a game-high seven kills on 16 attack attempts in the first game.
This is the second time in the last four years that the Cougars have reached the NCAA Tournament finals. BYU is attempting to win the program’s first national title since defeating Long Beach State in the 2004 NCAA Tournament finals.
BYU will play the winner of the other semifinal match between Ohio State and UCLA in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday at Rec Hall.