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Men's Volleyball: 'Eaters repeat

Anteaters sweep top-seeded BYU to earn back-to-back NCAA titles and four in the last seven years.

May 04, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
(Reed Saxon / AP )

LOS ANGELES — Thundering chants of U-C-I and B-Y-U perhaps might have faded under a more resonant echoes of Dy-Nas-Ty Saturday night as the UC Irvine men's volleyball team earned its second straight NCAA championship and its fourth in seven seasons.

The No. 2-seeded Anteaters (25-7), who had lost their first two meetings to the top-seeded Cougars (26-5) this season, exploded for a 25-23, 25-22, 26-24 victory in the title match in front of 6,295 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, as well as a national television audience on ESPNU.

The victory cements UCI's status as the preeminent program in the land, a thought almost laughable more than a decade ago, when the program became fully funded for the first time in terms of allowable scholarships.

Senior All-American outside hitter Kevin Tillie, junior Final Four MVP Connor Hughes, and sophomore opposite Zack La Cavera had 11 kills each to lead the Anteaters, who posted a .383 attack percentage, 109 points better than BYU.

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Tillie joined Hughes and senior setter Chris Austin (43 assists) on the all-tournament team for the second straight year, while sophomore All-American libero Michael Brinkley (eight digs Saturday) and sophomore All-American middle blocker Collin Mehring (seven kills with a ,600 percentage and two block assists) were also all-tournament choices.

And while Hughes, chosen to start for the first time in seven matches , earned the top individual honor, junior middle blocker Scott Kevorken (six of his seven kills in the final two sets and six of his 11 block assists in the final set) may have come up biggest of all when the Anteaters needed him most.

UCI rallied from an 11-4 deficit in Game 2 and overcame a 24-21 margin to score the final five points in Game 3 to clinch their 14th sweep of the season.

UCI, which becomes the first team to win back-to-back NCAA titles since UCLA in 1995-96, is also the first team to put together consecutive title-match sweeps since UCLA managed it in 1982-83.

"This whole season has been planned around figuring out a way to beat BYU and I'm really proud of all the guys for capitalizing and executing what I think was a great collective game plan by our staff," UCI first-year head coach David Kniffin said. "We were able to find a couple chinks in the armor tonight. There's not many with a team like BYU and we are able to exploit that."

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