Los Angeles • Chris McGown knew the day was coming, knew he'd only have the terrific twosome of Taylor Sander and Ben Patch for one season, but that doesn't make this any easier.
Patch will embark on his LDS mission next year as Sander returns for his senior season, leaving a surprisingly massive vacuum that only got bigger as he got better in his phenomenal freshman season.
This was always part of the bargain, but sitting up on the dais after his BYU Cougars fell to UC Irvine, 3-0, in the NCAA Men's Volleyball championship match at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, McGown was already thinking what could have been.
"It's been fairly institutionalized into our program that it's part of doing business at BYU; guys are gonna come and gonna go." McGown said. "We knew [Patch] wanted to go [on his mission] since we started recruiting him that was a selling point, that we could accommodate that but clearly as a coach, you've got some mixed emotions."
Patch's and Sander's emotions were not so mixed, but they were more than evident.
The All-American duo walked off the Pauley Pavilion floor in a zombie-like trance, eyes reddened, surrounded by friends and family but clearly off in their own worlds.
Sander, replaying a match that could've been won, over and over.
Patch, realizing that the Cougars' fantastic run will be his last for two years.
Both understanding that such a season will be difficult to replicate, that their bond may be broken for now, but that it will be forged again.
"Taylor is irreplaceable; I'll never be another Taylor Sander," said Patch, who will return to BYU for the 2015-16 season, when Sander will be long gone. "But I can try my hardest to be a leader and the role model he is. He was so inspiring to play around. I can only hope to do a little of that in my time to come."
Added Sander: "I'm so proud of that kid. He's done so many good things for us. I know this won't be the last time I play with him."