(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- Two All-America honorees, a 12-match win streak to open the season, and a chance at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament Championship were only three of the highlights in the successful 2008 BYU men's volleyball campaign.
The Cougars finished the season with a record of 25-5 overall and 20-5 against top-15 opponents. BYU also went 18-4 in MPSF regular-season action, earning the team a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
"I am so proud of the guys," BYU head coach Shawn Patchell said. "They dealt with adversity in a mature way. They peaked at the right time, and we were one point shy of winning the MPSF Championship. I was especially proud of our team cohesion."
BYU was up two sets to none against the No. 5 seed Pepperdine in the MPSF Tournament championship match and had a swing for the win. Despite the large lead, the Cougars were unable put the match away. The Waves won the next three sets, and BYU's remarkable season came to an unexpected close. Seniors Ivan Perez and Jonathan Charette were named to the All-Tournament team and each had 20 kills in the match.
The CBS College Sporst Network/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Poll featured BYU at the No. 1 spot for the first 10 full weeks of the season. The Cougars spent only one week out of the top three in the nation before finishing the year at No. 4.
Patchell attributed much of the team's success to the senior-heavy roster and amount of experience among the players.
"Five seniors contributed and led our team throughout the season," he commented. "Trent Sorensen and Jonathan Charette were great captains. I've appreciated not only what the captains did for us this year, but all of the seniors' efforts."
Among those seniors to which Patchell alluded were three-time AVCA Division I-II Men's Volleyball All-Americans Russell Holmes and Ivan Perez. Holmes was recognized with First Team honors and Perez was named to the Second Team in 2008. Holmes and Perez were also named First Team All-MPSF and were joined by Sorensen as an Honorable Mention.
As a team, the 2008 BYU squad left its mark on the record books. It set a new school record with 1,178 digs as a team (previous record -- 994), finished third in school history in total blocks (342.5), tied for fourth in school history in service aces (115), and finished fifth in the record books in assists (1,631) (all records as of 2001 when rally scoring began).
Individually, there were also two Cougars who set school records. Perez set a school record with 16 digs in three sets against Stanford, Feb. 23 (rally scoring rules). His 236 digs on the season beat the school's previous all-time rally-scoring record, yet is second only to the 249 digs his teammate Joel Silva racked up in 2008 as well. Perez is also atop BYU's all-time digs list with 672 and total games played list with 391.
As for the future of the program, Patchell says it is bright. Although there will be only one senior returning for the 2009 season (Leandro Justen), the roster still lists experienced players and will feature standout recruits and transfers.