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Provo • Ben Patch didn't get embarrassed. He just got even.
BYU's All-American opposite hitter messed up royally at the end of the fourth set Thursday night in an MPSF semifinal volleyball match against UC Santa Barbara, mis-hitting a ball so badly that it came closer to hitting the bottom of the net than the top.
The error gave the Gauchos a 25-23 win, and sent the match to a decisive fifth set. From there, though, Patch was sensational, making five kills down the stretch as the top-seeded Cougars took a 3-2 win to advance to Saturday's championship match against second-seeded UCLA.
First serve is at 7 p.m. and the match will be televised by BYUtv.
"I was really impressed with the way [Patch] rebounded from the end of that fourth set," said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. "He rebounded in the fifth set and did exactly what we know he can do. And so I was proud of him."
A sophomore, Patch finished with a season-high 32 kills and a spectacular .480 hitting percentage in what may have been his best performance as a Cougar.
"It is a credit to Leo," Patch said, referring to setter Leo Durkin, who had a career-high 62 assists and a team-high 12 digs, which tied a career high. "He did an awesome job and put up just amazing sets."
Said Durkin: "I just kept going to what was working."
The No. 1-ranked Cougars (25-3) played reasonably well Thursday, but were vulnerable in the middle and gave up 74 kills to the visitors. Olmstead said they will have to play better Saturday to knock off UCLA (25-5), which swept Long Beach State 3-0 before BYU and UCSB played what Patch called "a grinder."
BYU defeated UCLA 3-1 twice in Los Angeles on April 1 and April 2, but the Bruins have recovered nicely, downing Stanford, Pepperdine and Hawaii before routing the 49ers on Thursday.
"They played good volleyball," Olmstead said. "We were able to watch. We had front-row seats. It is a wonderful program. We have had some great battles already this year and so they are going to be ready to play come Saturday. So we got to focus and be ready to do the same."
While Durkin said the Cougars would need some time in the ice bath after the grueling win, Patch said he was ready to go against a program that has won 19 national championships.
"Of course, bring it on," Patch said. "They are an awesome team."
Both teams have likely punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament May 3-7 at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University. Up for grabs, though, is seeding for that tournament, which is important because the top two seeds get byes into the semifinals.
The other four entrants will participate in play-in games on May 3, with the fourth seed taking on the fifth seed and the third seed taking on the sixth seed.
MPSF Volleyball Championship
P At Smith Fieldhouse, Provo
No. 1 BYU vs. No. 2 UCLA
Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv