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BYU men's volleyball: Cougars suffer stinging defeat in national championship match

Published: Saturday, May 4 2013 11:30 p.m. MDT

BYU's Ben Patch, facing camera, and University of California-Irvine's Michael Saeta (5) embrace after their NCAA Final Four college volleyball championship game at UCLA in Los Angeles Saturday, May 4, 2013.  UC Irvine became the national champion, winning in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) BYU's Ben Patch, facing camera, and University of California-Irvine's Michael Saeta (5) embrace after their NCAA Final Four college volleyball championship game at UCLA in Los Angeles Saturday, May 4, 2013. UC Irvine became the national champion, winning in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

LOS ANGELES — Losing the national championship match wasn't something that BYU men's volleyball coach Chris McGown had even considered.

After all, losing wasn't something the Cougars did a whole lot of during a magical 2013 season.

Unfortunately for McGown, that magical season ended in disappointment, as UC Irvine beat his Cougars in Saturday night's national title match in straight sets.

"Up until that ball went into the stands for the final point I thought we were going to come back and win it," McGown said. "We never felt at any point that we were out of it and knew if we could get that third set we would go five and win it all."

While loss wasn't expected, the defeat is something McGown will not soon forget in preparing his team for the future.

Brigham Young coach Chris McGown consoles a teary-eyed Taylor Sander after UC Irvine defeated BYU in straight sets in the NCAA men's volleyball tournament final at UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Brigham Young coach Chris McGown consoles a teary-eyed Taylor Sander after UC Irvine defeated BYU in straight sets in the NCAA men's volleyball tournament final at UCLA in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

"We were so close — just a few points away in each set from winning this thing," McGown said. "Ultimately right now it's just hard to lose and see somebody else holding the trophy. Hopefully with time I'll get some perspective about the good things that happened this year and celebrate a little. For sure this will motivate us for next year though."

Finding the good in the face of disappointment is a concept that coaches espouse in all sports. Amid his own adversity, McGown knows he will have to find a way to swallow the loss and move on.

"We kind of gave that away in the third," McGown said. "I'll probably beat myself up over that one for a while. I'll probably look back at the film and agonize over a few things and think, 'If only. If only.' But you can't do that too much. Hopefully I'll look back on this season without the regret of not winning a national championship but with a deep sense of pride of what the guys did and how hard they worked and just what a wonderful group they were."

Brigham Young players sit after UC Irvine won the NCAA men's volleyball tournament final in straight sets on Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Los Angeles. UC Irvine won 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP) Brigham Young players sit after UC Irvine won the NCAA men's volleyball tournament final in straight sets on Saturday, May 4, 2013, in Los Angeles. UC Irvine won 25-23, 25-22, and 26-24. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Reed Saxon, AP)

After answering questions about his own feelings, McGown's expression changed as he thought about his team. For as hard as the loss was personally, the thought of how his squad felt appeared to be more painful.

"I'm hurting for the guys right now. As a staff, we're big boys and know that losing is part of the game, but I know how hard they worked and what they put into this and I'm just hurting for them," McGown said.

Jonathan Boldt is a sports writing intern for the Deseret News covering the Utah Valley. He can be reached at jonboldt@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jboldt24 - www.boldted.com

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