(Photo by Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo)
No. 2 BYU Cougars (11-3, 10-2 MPSF)
No. 1 UC Irvine Anteaters (14-3, 11-3 MPSF)
UC San Diego Tritons (6-11, 3-9 MPSF)
PROVO, Utah – Kicking off the second-half of its conference play, the No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team is back on the road for its second trip to California to take on No. 1 UC Irvine on Friday and UC San Diego on Saturday at 7 p.m. PST.
The Cougars, who hold the top spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings, are coming off home wins over then-No. 14 Pacific, 3-0, and then-No. 5 Stanford, 3-2. The win over the Cardinal snapped a six-match losing streak in the series. Freshman Ben Patch collected a career-high 26 kills while hitting .465. Junior Taylor Sander added 25 kills, seven blocks and three aces.
Patch hit a collective .441 for the week with 39 kills to garner MPSF and AVCA Player of the Week accolades.
Freshman Michael Hatch leads the MPSF in blocks with 1.62 per set. Senior Russ Lavaja is ranked third in the conference in hitting percentage with a .489 clip and holds the fourth-best blocks average with 1.33. After recording six service aces over the weekend, Sander is No. 4 in the conference in aces with a .39 average.
As a team, BYU is first in the MPSF in hitting percentage (.328), opponent hitting percentage (.242) and blocks (3.06).
The defending national champions are riding an MPSF season-long win streak 10 matches with two decisions over Hawai’i early last week. Within the 10-match win streak, UCI has trailed in sets on five occasions. Collin Mehring hit .667 for the Hawai’i series (18-2-24), and tied a conference season-high .800 (13-1-15) on the first night.
The Anteaters look to avenge earlier losses against Cal Baptist and BYU this week. UCI has not dropped a match since the 3-1 loss to BYU at the Smith Fieldhouse Jan. 18.
Mehring has the best hitting percentage in the MPSF with a .547 clip while Michael Brinkley is averaging 2.40 digs to hold the No. 3 spot. UC Irvine ranks second in hitting percentage (.323) and kills (13.06) in the conference.
The Cougars own the series record with the Anteaters, 37-14. BYU is 16-7 when playing at UCI.
The Anteaters host Cal Baptist Wednesday before welcoming the Cougars to the Bren Events Center.
UC San Diego
Carl Eberts had 15 kills with a .300 attack at Hope International last Friday when the Tritons dropped a 3-0 match.
Chase Frishman is second in digs in the MPSF with 2.40 per set.
BYU has never lost a match to UCSD, leading the series 33-0. The Cougars previously topped the Tritons 3-0 in Provo Jan. 19.
The Tritons travel to Cal Baptist Friday before hosting BYU on Saturday at the RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, Calif.
Follow @BYUvolleyball on Twitter for match updates. Live stats will be provided for both matches at ucsdtritons.com and ucirvinesports.com. Video streaming will be availabl for the match against UCSD with registration.