UC Irvine defeats BYU in three sets to claim consecutive national title
LOS ANGELES -- UC Irvine won its second national championship in a row, and its fourth in the last seven years, with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 26-24) sweep of top-ranked BYU in the NCAA Championship final Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.
The second-seeded Anteaters (25-7) became the first team in 17 years to win back-to-back titles since UCLA performed the feat in 1995 and 1996.
UCI, which swept USC in last year's final, is the first school in 30 years to win consecutive championship matches without losing a set. The Anteaters also won national titles in 2007 and 2009.
UCI's David Kniffin became just the second coach in NCAA men's volleyball history to win a national title in his first season.
Junior Connor Hughes, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, had 11 kills for the Anteaters, as did sophomore Zack La Cavera and senior Kevin Tillie. La Cavera hit .476 and Hughes .364.
Junior Scott Kevorken registered 12 blocks and seven kills, senior Chris Austin had 43 set assists and four digs, and sophomore Michael Brinkley had a match-high eight digs.
Brinkley, Austin, Tillie and Collin Mehring were all named to the All-Tournament team.
UCI hit .383 percent in the match to BYU's .274. Taylor Sander led the Cougars (26-5) with 20 kills.
BYU took an 11-9 lead on a Patch kill, before UCI went on a 5-1 run to take a 13-12 lead. The Anteaters scored three consecutive points on a kill by Connor Hughes a solo block by Chris Austin and a block by Scott Kevorken and Kevin Tillie to take a 17-14 lead.
A pair of Sander kills, plus one by Patch and a UCI attack error, knotted the score at 18. The teams traded points until BYU held the 23-22 advantage. A kill by Hughes was followed by a block by Hughes and kill by Kyle Russell to give the Anteaters the first set 25-23.
UCI trailed 11-4 in the second set and rallied with four consecutive kills, two by La Cavera to narrow the margin 11-8. With the Cougars leading 12-9, kills by Tillie and la Cavera, followed by an ace from Kevorken, tied the score at 12.
A kill by La Cavera and a block by Hughes and Kevorken put the Anteaters ahead 17-15. Back-to-back BYU kills deadlocked the score at 19. A Cougar error and another La Cavera kill gave UCI the lead for good. A kill by Hughes and a block by Kevorken and La Cavera ended the set 25-23.
BYU had set point in the third at 24-21, but UCI rallied on a kill by Kevorken, three consecutive blocks and a BYU error to win 26-24, sealing the Anteaters victory.