PROVO — Ben Patch is having a complete blast in his first season of collegiate volleyball.
Making an integral contribution to BYU's No. 1-ranked volleyball team, the true freshman is currently second on the squad in kills — trailing only star Taylor Sander — and has captured national attention for his performances. He was recently named back-to-back as both the American Volleyball Coaches Association and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation player of the week.
More importantly than individual honors for Patch is simply helping BYU secure its No. 1 ranking nationally as the end of the regular season nears. The Cougars are poised to make the coveted national Final Four playoffs, as they sit atop the MPSF conference with a 14-2 record.
“Anything I can do to help this team get us to the playoffs is all I’m trying to do,” Patch said. “It’s such an honor for me to be part of such a great volleyball program, so it’s all about the team and getting a national championship back to BYU. That‘s the main goal, but I‘m also having the time of my life being part of all this.”
Patch joined the BYU program as a project. Standing at an imposing 6-foot-8, he was long on potential and overall athleticism, but short on experience and the natural overall techniques involved with becoming a top-flight volleyball player.
Patch attended Provo High School and didn’t start playing competitive volleyball until late in the process.
“I really didn’t play volleyball at all until my freshman year (of high school),” Patch said. “I just started playing with some family and friends and immediately grew to love the sport. It was tough getting experience though and I’d play and practice a lot with the girls volleyball team since there’s no high school boys teams in the state. So yeah, it was tough getting the same type of experience you need to play at the collegiate level.”
Patch was able to join up with the USA youth national team in both 2011 and 2012, which helped prepare him for the highest level of college volleyball.
Another thing that has helped is Sander taking him under his wing — perhaps seeing much of Patch in himself. Sander came to BYU with great upside and, like Patch, contributed heavily to the team as a true freshman.
“Taylor is obviously the best player in the country and to have him take an interest in helping me along has been such a blessing,” Patch said. “If I can become even close to the player he is then I’ll do very well. He’s really worked hard at every part of his game and that’s my focus now.”
Since the start of the year coach Chris McGown has seen Patch progress in all facets of the game and is hopeful he continues the upward trend. It didn’t come easy, however, and his prized freshman incurred quite a few struggles initially.
“We were really excited about him before he came in because of his upside and his athleticism, but he struggled a lot initially,” McGown said. “Early on we sort of stepped back and thought that, ‘Hey, maybe we shouldn’t have expected as much as we did,’ but he’s worked so hard since and worked through those initial struggles to the point where our excitement was very much warranted looking back. It’s been great to see.”
The challenge for Patch is simply becoming a well-rounded player. While he’s been able to kill a ball over the net effectively from Day 1, it’s his serve, digs and the little things that seen the most improvement. They're the things that have shaped him into the contributor he is currently.
“He’s not there yet, but I think he realizes that and there’s still some games where he struggles. But overall I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress he’s made,” McGown said. “He’s a different player than he was at the first of the year and we wouldn't be where we're at currently without him.”