(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
In head coach Carl McGown's 14th and final year at BYU, the Cougars finished ranked third in the nation after posting a 23-7 overall record and earning All-America first-team honors for two players.
McGown, the only coach of the BYU men's volleyball team since it entered NCAA competition in 1990, has led the team to eight top-10 finishes in the last eight years, including National Championships in 1999 and 2001. The Cougars have compiled an overall record of 215-131 (.621) since 1990 and an impressive 110-27 (.803) record in the last five years.
While they didn't finish with an NCAA Championship in 2002, losing the at-large bid to the national tournament to No. 2 Hawaii, McGown and his Cougars had an impressive year and did win a memorable final match in the Smith Fieldhouse against No. 6 Stanford.
"Before the match I was thinking how this was going to be my final match in the Smith Fieldhouse," McGown said. "I'm pretty nostalgic about things like that. I was going to be alright with however it ended up. But, it's going to be nice to write down a win for my last match in the Fieldhouse. Mostly, I had just been thinking that this was going to be my last match. I'm pleased it turned out this way."
Senior Mike Wall played a crucial part in the 3-2 win over the Cardinal, recording a season-high 15 digs and 33 kills on 50 swings that set a new BYU record. Four other Cougars registered double-digit kills against Stanford, including Rafael Paal with his season-high 17 kills. Joaquin Acosta added 13 kills, Luka Slabe had 12 and Chris Gorny recorded 11 kills for BYU.
McGown coached 18 different All-Americans at BYU and was named AVCA National Coach of the Year in both 1999 and 2001. After the 2000 season, McGown was awarded USA Volleyball's prestigious Tom Haine Memorial Award, honoring him for his many years of dedicated service and valuable contribution to the sport.
BYU seniors Mike Wall and Joaquin Acosta were both named to the 2002 AVCA All America first-team, marking the third time in the past four seasons that two BYU players have earned All-America first-team honors.
Wall, a 6-foot-4 opposite-side hitter from Santa Barbara, Calif., recorded eight 20-kill performances during the regular season, registering 10 or more kills in 28 of the Cougars' 29 matches in the 2002 season. He hit .353 on the season, connecting on 517 of 976 attempts. Wall joined Ryan Millar and Ethan Watts as the only players in BYU volleyball history to earn back-to-back All-America first-team honors.
Acosta, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, is the eighth player in BYU history to earn first-team All-America honors. Acosta averaged 4.15 kills per game and hit .376 on the season, including a team season-high .765 (14-1-17) against Concordia on March 8 and an impressive .643 (20-2-28) on March 29 against UC Santa Barbara.
In regular-season play, the Cougars posted 12 victories over top-10 opponents, including five wins over top-5 opponents. BYU also posted a perfect 6-0 record against non-conference opponents, including wins over Ohio State, Ball State and Lewis.
The Cougars started the season at home, swallowing a first-match 1-3 loss to No. 4 Stanford but followed with a seven-match winning streak that included three 3-0 wins over Southern Cal and Ohio State.
Due to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games being held in Salt Lake City, the Cougars spent the month of February on the road, posting a 4-2 record against MPSF opponents. On February 23 the Cougars recorded a record-setting 3-2 upset win over No.1 UCLA to end their month-long road tour. Junior Rafael Paal set a BYU record, hitting .714 (11-1-14) with nine digs and four blocks.
Freshman Carlos Moreno, who joined the team shortly after the first match of the season, posted 13 digs and a career-high 74 assists against UCLA--just one short of tying the BYU assists record set by former All-American and current Cougars assistant coach Hector Lebron. Sophomore Fernando Pessoa recorded a personal-best 13 digs against the Bruins.
Returning home in March to play before average crowds of nearly 2,400 in the Smith Fieldhouse, the Cougars suffered two back-to-back losses to No. 4 Pepperdine before going on a ten-match winning streak. During this time, the Cougars defeated four top-10 opponents, including two 3-0 victories over No. 5 UC Santa Barbara.
The Cougars ended the regular season on the road at UC San Diego and Hawaii, winning their last match of the regular season, 3-0, against future National Champion Hawaii.
Following their 3-2 win at home over Stanford on April 20, the Cougars went on to play top-ranked Pepperdine in the semi-final round of the MPSF Tournament, ending their season with a 1-3 loss in Malibu. BYU finished the regular season ranked third nationally, with a 23-7 overall record.