Men's Volleyball Blog | May 2013

Day 3 Practice

May 03, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 1:57 pm | Permalink

Check out pictures below from the Cougars' practice today at Pauley Pavilion in preparation for the 2013 NCAA National Championship match. BYU takes on UC Irvine Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT on ESPNU.

NCAA Tournament Friday Press Conference Transcript

May 03, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 12:49 pm | Updated: May 3, 2013 2:32 pm | Permalink

Below are quotes and pictures from Friday's pre-championship press conference with BYU head coach Chris McGown, Ben Patch and Russ Lavaja

BYU head coach Chris McGown

Opening statement
“We are excited to be playing in the national championship match. I felt like we had a nice effort last night and did a lot of things really well, as well as a few things we want to get better at. We’re excited to be playing a very good UC Irvine team and expect that this match will be one of those phenomenal match-ups.”

On star power
“It comes down to teams that can execute and teams with good players that can execute in those big moments. There’s a guy from ESPN - Simmons, who talks about fact that the team with the best player in the series tends to win that series. I think that ultimately it comes down to personnel and executions and we‘ve got some phenomenal athletes on our team. They (UCI) certainly have some wonderful athletes on their team. I think that’s one of the things that they have that’s unlike any other program in the country, it’s the depth of talent. They’ve got guys that were two-deep on the bench that were all-conference players.

On UCI’s defense
“John [Speraw], I thought was masterful at getting his guys to play big in tough situations: down two, come back and win in five, down two, come back and win in five. They really had to battle through the conference championship last year to make it to this match. [This year] they’ve strung together a wonderful season, battled through some injuries, and had to put out different lineups and different rotations, so that’s going to be one of their strengths. Kniffin is not afraid to pull the trigger on changing some lineups and getting different guys different looks and it makes them difficult to plan for.

On game plan
“We’re kind of pushing the reset button on our expectations with them just because I don’t know that we will see the same team – different setter, different outside. It’s interesting to see, I think they will be a little bit different than what we saw before. But I think we can take some confidence from the fact that we were in a really tough spot being down in the third and being able to battle and that’s  kind of been the theme for us the last half of the season is our ability to come back. Our team understands we can team through some of these tough moments. If we can come together and stay together, we’ll be solid enough to play through some of these difficulties.

BYU middle clocker Russ Lavaja

Players’ familiarity with UCI
“UCI is an awesome team, they’ve got, like Chris said, a bunch of really good players and they know how to play a long, deep match. It’s not going to be a quick one, I don’t think. I think it’s going to long and I think it’s going to be a good one.

BYU opposite Ben Patch

On familiarity with UCI
“Yeah, prior to this we’ve played them twice so we know a little bit about them. They have great athleticism and they’re a talented team so I think it’s going to come down to who executes in those moments and who plays better.”

NCAA volleyball
“It’s sometimes an out of body experience being able to play with people that are your idols and standing by them. It’s just been a really humbling experience.”

Expectations of championship game
“Two best teams in the country in pre-season, I think they nailed it when they said it was going to be us and here we are.”

On leaving volleyball for his mission
“It’s not my last volleyball match, but it is my last as a collegiate athlete for two years. I’ve got the USA Junior team in the summer still. The lessons that you learn out on a mission translate into your game when you come back so you just have to work hard again.”

Day 2 Practice Pictures

May 02, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 2:17 pm | Permalink

The Cougars just wrapped up practice at Pauley Pavilion in preparation for tonight's semifinal match against Penn State at 9 p.m. MDT. You can watch BYU live at NCAA.com.

AVCA Awards Banquet

May 01, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 9:50 pm | Permalink

The team participated in the AVCA Awards Banquet Wednesday night, honoring this year's AVCA All-Americans. Among those being recognized from BYU were junior Taylor Sander and freshman Ben Patch, both named to the All-America First Team, and senior Russ Lavaja, who was named to the second team. Patch was also honored as the NCAA Division I-II Newcomer of the Year.

With a 3.8 GPA, Phil Fuchs won the Elite 89 award. The Elite 89, an award founded by the NCAA, recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 89 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA championships.

Click here for the complete AVCA All-American release.

NCAA Day 1 Practice Pictures

May 01, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 4:22 pm | Permalink

Check out pictures below from the Cougars' practice today at Pauley Pavilion in preparation for the 2013 NCAA National Championships.

NCAA Tournament Wednesday Press Conference Transcript

May 01, 2013 - Posted by Whitney Weekes at 3:06 pm | Updated: May 3, 2013 12:39 pm | Permalink

Below are quotes and pictures from Wednesday's pre-tournament press conference with BYU head coach Chris McGown, Taylor Sander and Ryan Boyce.

BYU head coach Chris McGown

Opening Statement
"We are excited to be here. We are proud of the efforts that the boys have put in over the course of the season. They have had some tremendous moments and have worked really hard. They have done a nice job as a team to get us to this point. We are thrilled to be part of the competition. We recognize that there are a lot of really, really talented players and coaches that are involved in the final four and we look forward to a weekend of competition.”

On what the team needs to do to win on Thursday
“It's interesting to try and get a sense of a team that you haven't looked at much during the year with Penn State obviously not playing in our conference. We feel like we have a good handle on most of the other programs that we play a lot. We’ve tried to get a feel for how they are going to play. More than anything I think that we talk about – in all of these moments and all of these matches – that we haven’t needed to be somebody we’re not. We just want to be who we are and play within ourselves and continue to play good quality volleyball. So we’ve talked to our guys a lot about coming to play as hard as we can, to stay focused mentally, to do the little things and to just keep playing the game that we’ve played. We don’t need to be special necessarily, we just need to be who we are and we think we can compete by doing that.”  

On making sure his players aren’t overconfident as the No. 1 team
“I don’t think we’ve ever been overconfident during the course of the season, so it isn’t something that I see in our team. Our team has been pretty loose coming into today. We’ve had a good couple practices back home at BYU. We will see how we feel today. Certainly we will remind them of the Hawai’i match that we played in the quarterfinals of the MPSFs. We were a one see and they were an eight seed. We were supposed to kind of roll them and they gave us everything we could handle down to the last point. So we will talk about that a little bit and say remember what happened there. We can’t lose focus. If you are here, it’s because you are a wonderful volleyball team and every team is good in this tournament right now. 

On the differences between playing at altitude and playing at sea level
“The thing that I’ve seen over the course of the season is that when we’ve come to California, we’ve played really well. We’ve served as well as our opponents have served. We kind of acclimate quickly and the guys get into the rhythm of the match fairly fast. One of the things that is going to be critical is the serve, serve-receive game, and we’ve been good at that when we’ve come down here. We’ve actually served really well and guys get a feel for that and they can get on the ball a little bit more. We’ve talked over the course of the season about the serve and serve-receive and how critical those can be over the course of a match. That’s the part of the game that is most affected by a change in altitude. So when we’ve come down we’ve been good and I’ve been impressed by how quickly we acclimate and by how much pressure we can put on teams with our serve and how much pressure we can put on them by receiving serve well and then running our offense.”

On being able to have recruiting success in Southern California
“I think a lot of it is the strong membership in the religious affiliation that goes along with BYU and the Mormon Church. It’s certainly a unique environment there at BYU. One of the things that we talk to our guys all the time and to the recruits is that BYU is special in that a lot of the distractions are eliminated and you get to focus on your schooling. You get to focus on being a wonderful volleyball player. You are surrounded by people that are kind of like minded and uphold values that you have and want more than anything in the world to be phenomenal volleyball players and to be good students. There isn’t a lot of overhead that goes along with that so I think people who come from strong volleyball backgrounds, especially here in Southern California, get there and they recognize that this program does things for you that others can’t.”

BYU junior outside hitter Taylor Sander

On whether having Final Four experience makes a difference
“It’s unfamiliar for us but we’re up to the challenge. Every team that is here is really good. We are just going to have to play our volleyball and not have to think too far ahead of ourselves. We are going to take Penn State first and just play our volleyball. That should be good enough I feel like.”

On the differences between playing at altitude and playing at sea level
“It’s a lot harder for us to play here, but we have a couple days to acclimate. The serves are coming a little bit harder and they drop a little bit more. So yeah, we just have to dial it in during these practice sessions that we get. We have played here a couple of times this season and we’ve done well. So we feel comfortable here for sure.”

On why he chose BYU
“I was being looked at by a lot of really good schools. I was considering USC, UC Irvine – all those big schools. The thing for me was just developing myself as a better person and helping myself grow up and just preparing myself for the future. The culture that we have there at BYU really helps you do that. The players are really mature. The schooling is great. Everyone really cares about you there, so it’s a catch for me. Being away from home is nice and trying to grow up a little bit on my own.”

BYU senior setter Ryan Boyce

On whether having Final Four experience makes a difference
“We just want to keep playing. Volleyball is a great sport and we are having a lot of fun. This has been a great year for us as a team and everyone seems to be on the same page. So we just want to keep playing and keep staying together as a team and go from there.”

On whether the change in altitude affects his setting
“I don’t think so. The field house we play in at home is a really small venue. Then you get to here where it’s a big venue. We practiced at the Marriott Center, the basketball arena there at BYU, just to get used it and so I think everyone is feeling good and everyone is just excited to get out there and play. We just want to play.”

On why he chose BYU
“I wasn’t heavily recruited at all out of high school. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that I was going to have opportunities to go to school, serve a mission, and do all those things that I wanted to do in my life. So BYU has just been a great school for me to go to. I met my wife, served a mission and accomplished all of the goals that I’ve wanted to accomplish so far. That’s the reason I went to BYU.”