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BYU, UC Irvine advance after semifinal sweeps

The Cougars and Anteaters make the national championship an all MPSF affair after a pair of 3-0 wins over Penn State, Loyola-Chicago.

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Taylor Sander scored nine of his match-high 17 kills, including the go-ahead point, in the third set to help the top-ranked BYU men's volleyball team sweep Penn State, 25-21, 25-16, 25-22 and advance to the Cougars' first national championship match since 2004.

Sander, who added seven digs, led BYU back from a 6-1 deficit in the final set with a blistering kill that gave the Cougars a 22-21 lead.

Ben Patch added 12 kills, five digs and two aces for the Cougars, who advanced to face defending national champion UC Irvine in Saturday's national final at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. The final will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Ryan Boyce dished out 16 assists for BYU, but head coach Chris McGown replaced him with freshman Tyler Heapafter the Cougars trailed heavily in the final set. The newcomer from La Jolla, Calif., woke up the listless Cougars and finished the night with 18 assists.

BYU rolled through the first two sets on the strength of its play at the net, as Patch, Devin Young and Russ Lavaja led the Cougars to 11.5 blocks. Penn State, meanwhile, did not record a single block until Taylor Hammond gave the Nittany Lions a 3-1 lead in the third set.

Sander and Patch, who was named AVCA newcomer of the year, combined for 15 kills with only one error in the first two sets. Sander sparkled with a .566 hitting percentage, including a 5-of-7 effort in the first set.

Aaron Russell led Penn State with 13 kills and five digs, and brother Peter Russell added eight kills and four digs. But BYU held the Nittany Lions to a paltry .151 hitting percentage, including a .194 percentage by Aaron Russell.

Nick Goodell supplied nine kills for Penn State, which got 28 assists from Hammond.

UC Irvine 3, Loyola-Chicago 0Kevin Tillie tallied a match-high 14 kills and seven digs to help the Anteaters sweep upstart Loyola, 26-24, 25-18, 29-27 in the other semifinal.

Zack La Cavera added seven kills and five digs for UC Irvine, which got nine kills each from Colin Mehring and Connor Hughes. Chris Austin dished out 39 assists for the Anteaters.

Cody Caldwell had 12 kills and Joseph Smalzer added 11 for Loyola, which fought back from a 24-21 deficit in the third set with a 7-3 run to force extra time. Peter Hutz had 39 assists for the Ramblers, who were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

The win marked the first time since 2010 that both national semifinals ended in 3-0 sweeps.