UC Irvine became the first team since UCLA in 1996 to successfully defend an NCAA men's volleyball title, defeating top-seeded Brigham Young in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22 and 26-24, at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night.
The second-seeded Anteaters won the first set on a disputed kill by Kyle Russell. BYU players vehemently disagreed that any of them had touched the ball, which went out of bounds. Irvine had been behind by as many as three points in the opening set.
BYU had an 8-1 run to take command in the second set with an 11-4 lead before Irvine's Connor Hughes had a resounding kill to begin a run by the Anteaters. They scored five consecutive points to close the gap to 11-9 and force BYU into a timeout. The Cougars' Ben Patch stopped the streak with a kill.
But a service ace from Scott Kevorken tied the set at 12-12, and UC Irvine took a 16-15 lead on a Zack La Cavera kill. Another La Cavera kill gave the Anteaters an 18-16 lead, but his service error drew BYU to within 18-17. The Anteaters eventually took the second set, 25-22, with the winning point coming when Kevorken and La Cavera blocked a BYU hit.
The Anteaters clung to a 15-14 lead in the third set when BYU called timeout after a big Irvine block. The Cougars then squandered three set points after taking a 24-21 lead.
Following a block by Chris Austin and Kevorken to put the Anteaters ahead, 25-24, Hughes put in a big serve that left BYU players sprawling on match point.
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