NCAA Volleyball: Sander — Brenden, that is — leads Cougars to NCAA semifinal win

May 5, 2016

Being the younger brother of a former NCAA men’s volleyball player of the year and current U.S. team member brings inevitable comparisons for BYU sophomore Brenden Sander.

Yes, Taylor Sander is his older brother. But the younger Sander came up with a terrific performance in BYU’s NCAA semifinal win against Long Beach State to continue to make a name for himself.

Sander, a sophomore outside hitter, had a near-perfect night on offense with 14 kills on 23 swings and no errors (.583) along with two service aces to lead the top-ranked Cougars to a 25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 victory at Penn State’s Rec Hall on Thursday.

For the sixth time in school history, BYU is headed to the NCAA championship match, and Sander the younger was simply spectacular.

“I think people should stop that (the comparisons),” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “At the banquet last night they can’t say the kid’s name with saying Taylor. I love Taylor, and he knows that I care deeply for him. I have a great relationship with Taylor. But he (Brenden) has done that (played well) for so long I wonder why people are surprised. He’s been putting up these numbers for months now.”

The top-ranked Cougars (27-3) responded to adversity in a big way after Long Beach State tied the match at 1-1 with a Set 2 victory. BYU put the clamps on the 49ers outstanding freshman, T.J. DeFalco, and rolled to big wins in Set 3 and 4 to move on to Saturday’s final.

“They (Long Beach State) pushed our guys and we expected that,” Olmstead said. “They have a lot of great players. It was a fun match to be a part of. I was really happy with our boys and their composure after losing that second set and going into the third. I thought we got a lot of good touches right from the start and these guys did a good job of following the scouting report. They’ve been pretty good at that the entire season.”

Overall BYU played a much cleaner match than Long Beach State. The 49ers totaled 44 errors (25 hitting and 19 serving), while the Cougars had 23 errors (13 hitting and 10 serving). Those extra points allowed BYU to get ahead and maintain that lead throughout the match, especially in Sets 3 and 4.

Ben Patch had six kills and a key service ace off the bench from Robbie Sutton to push the Cougars to a 25-21 Set 1 win. BYU led Set 2 15-12 but Long Beach State went on 5-2 run to tie it up at 17-all. The Cougars had two crucial service errors down the stretch and a bad overpass at set point that the 49ers pounded for the winning point at 25-23.

The Cougars got off to a 5-2 lead in Set 3 with kills from Patch and Jake Langlois along with a service ace from Sander. It was 11-5 after a Sander kill and a Long Beach State error and BYU maintained at least a 3-point lead the rest of the way. At set point, Langlois ripped a service ace for the winner and a dominating 25-19 victory.

BYU took control of Set 4 early, breaking a 6-6 tie with a 6-1 run that included back-to-back aces from Langlois for a 12-7 lead. From there, the Cougars marched to the end as Long Beach State struggled to get back any momentum. Sander smashed three of BYU’s final four kills in a 25-18 win.

Just like his brother, Brenden Sander bring it when it counts. Taylor Sander led BYU to the NCAA final in 2013.

“I’m my own person and Taylor is his own person,” Brenden Sander said. “We have similar games in some ways and we look kind of similar. We both just have the determination to do the best we can. We’ve been raised to do that and raised to compete. I’m my own person and so is he. We both get the job done a certain way.”

Patch finished with 13 kills and after a slow start Langlois played a key role in Sets 3 and 4 with his hitting and serving. Michael Hatch contributed five blocks and Leo Durkin posted 41 assists.

DeFalco led Long Beach State (25-8) with a match-high 23 kills but also had nine hitting errors and seven service errors. DeFalco had 14 kills in the first two sets but BYU neutralized him in Set 3 to regain control of the match.

The Cougars will play the winner of the UCLA-Ohio State semifinal on Saturday. The championship match is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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