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Provo • One of the more remarkable careers in BYU athletics history will conclude next week in Columbus, Ohio, when men's volleyball star Ben Patch returns to the area where he served as an LDS Church missionary and tries to deliver the program's first national title since 2004 in the NCAA Championships at Ohio State's St. John Arena.
Patch's college career will end a year earlier than expected because the two-time All-American already has announced that he will turn professional and begin doing all he can to make the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team that will compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
"Honestly, it is just a feeling that it is time to move on in life," said Patch, 22, who is close to getting his degree in communication. "BYU has given me experiences and opportunities and opened a lot of doors. But I think there are new doors opening, and it is time to take advantage of those, especially in light of the Olympics coming up and my position in the U.S. gym."
The third-seeded Cougars (24-4) will meet sixth-seeded Barton College (23-5) of Wilson, N.C., at 4 p.m. MDT Tuesday in a play-in match in Columbus. The winner will meet No. 2 seed Long Beach State (27-3) in a national semifinal match Thursday.
Patch was a big part of the BYU team that fell 3-0 to Ohio State in last year's national championship match and also played as a freshman on the 2013 Cougars team that fell 3-0 to UC Irvine in the finals.
"I don't know if motivation is the right word, but there is confidence, for sure," he said. "I think I just am very calm, and I think our team is very calm. We are excited, but we know it is coming and we are going to give it our all."
Patch then will bid farewell to his sensational college career. He was a first-team All-American as a freshman and sophomore but was sidelined for 11 matches this season by a groin injury and only recently has been back to full strength.
"I don't know that this season isn't what I would have envisioned, or not, but it happened and I just try to stay in the present and be in the moment," he said. "I am happy with what I have accomplished when I was playing and when I wasn't playing. Ultimately, BYU isn't my end destination, but just trying to be the best player and teammate I can here is what I can do all the time, regardless of injury or not."
Patch made the 19-man Team USA roster for the World League games last summer, but he did not make the 12-man team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"I think it is best for me to go get as high of a level of experience as I can before the next Olympics in order to try and make that team for Japan," he said.
After acquiring his first digital camera just two years ago, Patch also has built a blossoming photography business shooting mostly weddings and events and has more than 91,000 followers on Instagram. He will head to Italy to play professional volleyball this summer, but he certainly will have something to fall back on if that doesn't work out.
And he said he will look back on his time at BYU fondly, regardless of how it ends next week.
"Honestly, [I am leaving] a legacy of love," he said, when asked how he will be remembered. "I love the school, I love this program, I love my teammates and I love the fans. Really, though, I think just being from Provo, this has been the most amazing experience for me to be able to play in front of family and people who have supported me, a little kid out of Provo who was practicing with the girls team, coming to BYU and living his dreams. … So if there's any legacy, it would be that."
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Ben Patch highlights
Freshman • Named AVCA Newcomer of the Year, MPSF Freshman of the Year and a first team All-American and led Cougars to 2013 NCAA national championship match.
Sophomore • Returned from church mission to Columbus, Ohio, named the MPSF Tournament MVP, a first team AVCA All-American, and led BYU to 2016 NCAA national championship match.
Junior • Sidelined 11 matches by a groin injury, still awarded All-MPSF honorable mention honors and helped BYU earn a No. 3 seed in next week's NCAA championships.
Next • Will turn professional this summer with sights on making the 2020 U.S. Men's Volleyball Olympic Team.