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BYU falls to UC Irvine in first NCAA title match since 2004

Taylor Sander's match-high 20 kills wasn't enough as BYU fell to Scott Kevorken, Connor Hughes and the UCI block party.

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Scott Kevorken posted seven kills and 6.5 blocks to help the UC Irvine men's volleyball team win its second consecutive national championship with a 25-23, 25-22, 26-24 over BYU on Saturday night at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

Connor Hughes, Kevin Tillie and Zack La Cavera each supplied 11 kills and Chris Austin distributed 43 assists for the Anteaters, who posted 16 team blocks with only one block error. UC Irvine only posted two solo blocks and relied on 30 block assists as it dominated the net with the double- and triple-blockers.

After falling behind 0-2, the Cougars jumped to a 3-1 lead in the decisive set on a standout performance by All-American Taylor Sander, who finished with a match-high 20 kills. Catching a break after an Irvine service error, Josue Rivera put down one of his eight kills to bring up set point at 24-21.

Then, the Anteaters reasserted themselves at the net. Three straight blocks, including a set-point block by Kevorken, gave Irvine its second national championship in as many years.

BYU, playing in its first NCAA tournament since winning its third national title in 2004, struggled to capitalize on any rhythm early. After the Cougars tied the first set at 18-18, Hughes went to work, and the tournament's most outstanding player put down a thrashing kill to bring up set point ahead of the 25-23 win. UC Irvine hit .448 as a team in the first set, compared to .370 for BYU, which committed six hitting errors.

The Cougars seemed to shrug off the loss by blitzing the Anteaters with an 8-1 run to take an 11-4 lead on Russ Lavaja's pounding kill straight at Tillie. But Irvine responded with a 5-0 run of its own before Kevorken's ace tied the match at 12-12. Kevorken had five kills and five blocks on .500 hitting in the first two sets alone.

Irvine became the first team to win back-to-back titles in straight sets since UCLA in 1982-83. The Anteaters downed USC, 3-0 in last year's NCAA tournament.

Lavaja finished with eight kills and three blocks for BYU, and teammate Ben Patch had seven kills. Ryan Boyce dished out 34 assists for the Cougars.