UC Irvine wins men's volleyball title

LOS ANGELES -- UC Irvine won its second straight NCAA men's volleyball title and fourth in seven years, sweeping top-ranked BYU in three sets Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Connor Hughes, Kevin Tillie and Zack La Cavera each had 11 kills to help the Anteaters (25-7) become the first team to successfully defend a title since UCLA in 1996. UC Irvine also won in 2007 and 2009.

"We came into the season with this as our objective," coach David Kniffin said. "I think everyone thought BYU would be in this position. This whole season has been based on beating BYU.

BYU (26-5) beat Irvine twice in the regular season, but couldn't overcome the Anteaters' offense and their own mistakes. The Cougars had 21 errors to Irvine's 12.

"We were struggling offensively all night," BYU coach Chris McGown said. "I thought UCI played inspired volleyball. They were as good as anyone we played this season.

Irvine, an at-large selection in the tournament, won the first set 25-23, in a game that saw 13 ties and 13 lead changes.

In the second set, BYU used an 8-1 run to take the largest lead of the match for either team at 11-4. Irvine came back, winning the next five points to pull within two, and tied it at 12. The Anteaters survived a late BYU rally and took the set 25-22.

"I feel like it was a big turning point," said Hughes, voted the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. "I wasn't even looking at the scoreboard. We just want to play that point to point style like we talked about and we can get back in it."

In the third, Irvine was down 24-21, then won the next five points to close out the match.

"They just executed," McGown said. "We passed OK for the first couple of points. But they got in good position defensively and executed and we couldn't. They have big guys and we had trouble with them. It was remarkable how well they played."

Scott Kevorken had the winning point.

"It was a pretty big moment," Kevorken said. "We had been there before, but I just felt such poise and control."

It was the second straight sweep for UC Irvine in the championship game. The Anteaters beat Southern California in three set last year.

Taylor Sander led the Cougars with 20 kills.

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