PROVO — The BYU men's volleyball team just wrapped up one of the most successful MPSF runs in its history and is poised to make a run at winning it all. The team travels to Los Angeles to compete in the NCAA Final Four this weekend and will be tabbed as the favorite by many.
The Deseret News caught up with head coach Chris McGown to learn more about his team's success and what strides need to be made to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
1. What has led to the success of this year's team and how have the players worked to improve from last season?
It's hard to put a finger on any specific improvement if you go by the numbers, but I think we've served it better and I think we're just more experienced. Having that experience and everyone knowing the subtleties and nuances of the game is better this year. Most of all I think this team handles tough situations better than we did a year ago.
2. Taylor Sander is your headliner. How good of a player is he and what has he been like to coach?
You get spoiled, as a coach, being in the gym with him every day and the spectacular just becomes pedestrian because he's so consistently good. I think he's only half as good as he will be. ... He's only going to get better, but he's obviously very, very good. You don't put the numbers he puts up and win the awards he has without being an amazing player.
3. Ben Patch has made a huge impact as a true freshman. Talk about what he's meant to the team this year.
He has all the physical gifts and he's made the most of them. He came in without having played a lot of volleyball and he's made the most of his time here and has really worked hard to improve. The best part about him is that he's maintained his humility. He hasn't gotten too big for his britches and he still gets teased a lot by his teammates, being a true freshman, but he just takes it and he's just a really warm and fun guy who is a huge part of this team's success.
4. Other players have played key roles this season. Who are some of those players?
Ryan Boyce has really improved and has played a big role as our starting setter and he's really become a team leader for us. Russ Lavaja had to replace Futi (Tavana) as our middle blocker and he's had an amazing year and stepped up like we needed him to. Josue Rivera has been great. (Devin Young) has really come on strong late and it's just a great effort we've had from all our players. Jaylen Reyes is certainly a big part of this team with all the work he's put in and he's a real emotional leader for us as well. I've really been thankful for the work all of these guys have put in and how they approach every week of practice leading up to the games.
5. What specific things does the team need to improve on to win a national championship?
I keep telling the guys that we just need to be who we are because we are that good. We're good enough, with the talent we have, to win it all. No one is perfect and we're at our best when we realize that we'll always make mistakes. But it's how you respond to those mistakes that will get you your goal and that goal is obviously to win a national championship.