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Columbus, Ohio • Not many men's college volleyball players can say they played in three national championship matches over the course of five seasons.
BYU's Ben Patch can, although seeing his team get swept in all three will put a bit of a damper on that remarkable achievement.
Patch, a junior who has said this is his final season in Provo, didn't start in Saturday's eventual 3-0 loss to Ohio State at St. John Arena, but had an impact nevertheless.
"I think he was great for us," said BYU setter Leo Durkin. "Ben has that ability to get really, really hot, and those are the times you need him."
As he did in Thursday's 3-0 win over Long Beach State, BYU coach Shawn Olmstead started junior Tim Dobbert at opposite hitter, instead of Patch, a two-time All-American who never really got into the flow this season after suffering a groin injury in early February.
When Dobbert struggled early, Patch entered the match in the first set with BYU trailing 19-10 and played most of the rest of the match. He delivered a couple of quick kills in the first set and some service aces in the second set.
Olmstead generally avoided answering why Patch's playing time was limited at the end of the season when he was healthy, saying numerous times that it was simply the game plan to go with Dobbert more, and Dobbert did play well in April and May.
"We felt like we needed a spark, and Ben brought that tonight," Olmstead said. "And there was an overall approach to the game plan, too, that we go through as coaches. And so part of that game plan was the decision to go back and forth."
Patch was a freshman when BYU lost 3-0 to UC Irvine in the 2013 championship match, then returned from a church mission to Columbus, of all places, to help BYU get to the 2016 championship match. Ohio State won that one as well, 3-0.
"Ben did a great job, served really well, and attacked at a high level, and that's what Ben can do," Olmstead said. "And both those guys, both Ben and Tim, have done an outstanding job, and when you go back and forth, that can be hard. They both had a great attitude about it, and so that's what went into those decisions."
On an otherwise dismal night for BYU, Patch got the Cougars off to a good start in the third set. The Cougars led 3-1 early, their largest lead in any set, and had a 10-9 lead after a net violation by Ohio State.
Then OSU reeled off three straight points and never trailed again. The Cougars rallied late to trim the deficit to 23-21, but committed a service error and could only watch as OSU superstar Nicolas Szerszen registered his 16th and final kill.
"He's a really good player, has a lot of range," BYU's Price Jarman said of Szerszen. "He can hit a lot of shots."
Patch finished with a .333 hitting percentage in his final match as a Cougar, while Dobbert who has yet to announce whether he will return next year finished at .077. From Germany, Dobbert has a year of eligibility remaining, but graduated in April and said two weeks ago he would decide his future after the tournament.
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BYU opposite hitter Ben Patch's NCAA championship matches
Year Result Hitting percentage Kills
2013 UC Irvine 3, BYU 0 .091 7
2016 Ohio State 3, BYU 0 .091 10
2017 Ohio State 3, BYU 0 .333 6