Sander spearheads BYU to stunning sweep of LBSU in NCAA semifinals

COLUMBUS, Ohio — BYU outside attacker Brenden Sander had one of his best matches of the season in the biggest matches of the year

Sander had a match-high 15 kills on a .619 attack percentage as the No. 3 seed BYU swept the No. 2 seed Long Beach State 25-20, 25-18, 25-23 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.

This was the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament match in Sander’s career that all-conference junior had double-digit kills while hitting at least .400. It also was the first time this season Sander had more than a .500 attack percentage against a top-10 nationally ranked team.

BYU in the victory out-hit Long Beach State .426 to .215 and had three players with more than five kills. Opposite Tim Dobbert had 11 kills on a .474 attack percentage, while All-American opposite Jake Langlois added seven kills.

Langlois also contributed a match-high four aces, including three straight aces in the second game.

Long Beach State entered the match with a nation-best .371 attack percentage but was held to less than a .250 attack percentage in two of the three games.

All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco and All-American opposite Kyle Ensing in the loss each had a team-high 12 kills. DeFalco also added three aces.

BYU rallied from a 22-19 deficit in the third game and closed out the game on a 6-1 run to complete the sweep.

With the second game tied at 2-2, Langlois had three consecutive service aces to give BYU the lead. The Cougars also finished the game with one attack error and hit a match-best .591 to take a two-game lead.

Sander in the opening game led all players with six kills on six attempts, including the game-winning kill. In addition, the Cougars rallied from an early 4-1 deficit with a 5-0 run to take the lead and held the 49ers to a .083 attack percentage in the five-point win.

With this victory, BYU advances to the NCAA Tournament finals for the third time in the last five years. It will play the winner of the other semifinal match between Ohio State and Hawai’i.

BYU reached the NCAA Tournament semifinals after sweeping Barton in the NCAA Tournament play-in match on Tuesday. Long Beach State after winning the MPSF Tournament earned the No. 2 seed and a bye to the semifinals.

The Long Beach State loss continues the trend of a No. 2 seed having never won a NCAA Tournament match since 2014 when the field expanded six teams.