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Ohio State, BYU Repeat as NCAA Men's Finalists

By B.J. Hoeptner Evans (bj.evans@usav.org) | May 04, 2017, 11 p.m. (ET)

Men's NCAA Tournament 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (May 4, 2017) – The 2017 NCAA Men’s Division I-II National Championship will be a rematch of 2016 as Ohio State and BYU both won their semifinal matches on Thursday at St. John Arena.

In the first semifinal match, BYU upset No. 2-seeded Long Beach State, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23. In the second match, No. 1 Ohio State defeated Hawaii, 25-23, 25-18, 25-19.

The final will be 7 p.m. ET at St. John Arena and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

BYU outside hitter Brenden Sander, the brother of U.S. Men’s National Team outside hitter Taylor Sander and a member of the 2016 U.S. Pan American Cup team, led the Cougars with 16.5 points on 15 kills, one ace and a block assist.

“I guess I just played kind of free,” Sander said. “All my guys were helping me out and playing as a team.”

Sander’s teammate on the Pan American Cup team, T.J. DeFalco, the 2017 NCAA Player of the Year, led Long Beach State with 16.5 points on 12 kills, three aces and 1.5 blocks.

Long Beach State Coach Alan Knipe, who coached the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2009-12, felt the final match did not reflect his team’s season.

“It’s a disappointing loss for us tonight,” Knipe said. “It’s not the end to the season that we wanted. I’m incredibly proud of our guys.

“I would certainly be a lot happier playing on Saturday. But it certainly won’t change how I feel about my guys or team or the body of work they put in all season long.”

International players dominated the match between Ohio State and Hawaii. France’s Nicolas Szerszen led the Buckeyes with 15.5 points on 10 kills, five aces, including three in one second-set serving run, and a block assist. Hawaii’s opposite Stijn van Tilburg from Netherlands led the his team with 13 points on 13 kills.

Ohio State got solid performances from middle blocker Driss Guessous and setter Christy Blough, both of whom played on the U.S. Junior National Team. Blough also played on the Youth National Team. 

“I just thought that as the match unfolded, our guys had some poise and experience and we certainly had Buckeye Nation behind us,” said Ohio State Head Coach Pete Hanson, referring to the more than 4,800 fans, most of them in Ohio State scarlet, who attended the match. 

“It’s going to be a great match on Saturday. Clearly BYU is a very motivated team.”

Box Score: BYU vs. Long Beach State
Box Score: Ohio State vs. Hawaii

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