Three BYU Teams Compete for and Lose National Titles on Same Day
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Three teams claimed national runner-up trophies for BYU within the space of a few hours.
- Competing for three such titles—and on the same day, no less—is historic and probably unprecedented.
For BYU sports fans, May 7 was an unforgettable day of feast and famine.
The feast: three separate Cougar squads (men’s volleyball, women’s rugby, and men’s rugby) played in national title games.
Reaching a national championship final is a remarkable accomplishment at any university. Competing for three such titles—and on the same day, no less—is historic and probably unprecedented.
Now the famine: none of the teams from the Church-owned school won.
Unwanted results aside, the three teams claimed national runner-up trophies for BYU within the space of a few hours—a run of success unlikely to be seen again at any university.
In men’s volleyball, BYU fell in three sets (32-30, 25-23, 25-17) to Ohio State in the NCAA championship match at State College, Pennsylvania.
“Hats off to Ohio State,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said to the Deseret News. “They put together a remarkable season and they were absolutely the better team tonight.”
The Cougars finished the 2016 campaign with a stellar 27-4 record. Returned missionary Jake Langlois and fellow outside hitter Brenden Sander were named to the All-Tournament Team. Sophomore Ben Patch also earned All-American honors following an outstanding season.
Coach Olmstead, meanwhile, made something of a return to the NCAA volleyball title game. In 2014 he coached the BYU women’s team to the national final.
Expect BYU to contend for the national volleyball championship next season. The Cougars lose only one starter, Michael Hatch, to graduation.
BYU's Brenden Sander kills a ball. The BYU men's volleyball team was defeated by Ohio State 3-0 in the championship match of the NCAA men's volleyball championships on Saturday, May 7, 2016, at Rec Hall on the Penn State campus in University Park, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU.
In women’s rugby, the Cougars made their first-ever run to the Division 1 college national championship game, losing to perennial power Penn State University 15-5 at Moraga, California.
“We really gave it our all,” said Coach Tom Waqa. “We’re on a high. It’s our first championship. We were not intimidated; [the players] represented their families and their school well.”
It’s been a historic year for women’s rugby at BYU. The university officially sanctioned the program last October as an extramural club. That gave the team increased access to school athletic facilities and other training resources.
Reaching their first-ever final “was always our goal,” said All-American Rebekah Boaz Hebdon, one of several returned missionaries in the Cougars starting line-up.
BYU No. 8 Sia Skipps battles for more territory. Photo courtesy of BYU women's rugby.
The BYU women's rugby team poses for a team photo on May 5, 2016, before leaving for the national championship game.
Photo courtesy of BYU women's rugby.
The BYU men’s rugby team came into the national Varsity Cup Championship against California as the undisputed premier college rugby program. The Cougars had won four straight national titles that included three victories over the Cal Golden Bears.
But despite playing in front of a spirited hometown crowd in Provo, Utah, BYU dropped this year’s title game 40-29.
The Cougars led 29-26 heading into the last quarter but were unable to hold the lead to the final whistle, ultimately surrendering the game and title to their rival.
“In all honesty, I thought Cal was better,” said BYU coach David Smyth. “I thought they were more physical than us. I thought they were more dialed in on what they were trying to do.”
Bright days are ahead for BYU rugby, assured Coach Smyth on the team’s website.
“We’re disappointed but not devastated. Our rivalry with Cal is the result of both teams doing their best to play great rugby.”
Brigham Young flanker Jackson Kaka tries to break away from defenders during the college rugby Varsity Cup national championship match against California at South Field in Provo, Saturday, May 7, 2016. Photo by Chris Samuels, Deseret News.