Relying on its depth and experience, the 2010 BYU men’s volleyball team (22-9, 15-7 MPSF) finished the season at No. 2 in the final national rankings with a record of 17-9 against ranked teams. After going 9-6 in the first half, the Cougars finished 13-3 the last 16 matches, posting the longest winning streak in the nation with 11 from March 12-April 16 and earning its 14th-consecutive trip to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.
“I am pleased with the development of this team,” BYU head coach Shawn Patchell said. “Our record and rank proves that we improved from last season, but it doesn’t show how much. Our team and staff worked extremely hard to have the improvement and success we did.”
Leading the Cougars were All-American selections Andrew Stewart (first team) and Futi Tavana (second team). Stewart was also named first team All-MPSF and Tavana to the All-MPSF Second Team.
As a co-team captain, Stewart started at outside hitter in all but one match for the Cougars. As a senior he led the team with 463 kills on the season, averaging 3.92 per set. Stewart recorded double-digit kills 29 times throughout the year, leading the team in kills in 13 matches, one match leading him to an AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week on March 15. His 976 kill attempts in 2010 sits second on BYU’s rally scoring record list.
Sophomore middle blocker Tavana started 25-of-30 matches following his stellar season as a redshirt freshman last year. He broke the BYU all-time record for total blocks with 15 (1-14) achieved against then-No. 10 UC Santa Barbara on March 27. His 15 blocks helped BYU achieve a new all-time record for team blocks with 24.5 in the same match. His average of 1.62 blocks per set led the MPSF and ranked second nationally. A native of Kalaheo, Hawai’i, he ranked second for the Cougars with 151 blocks.
Stewart and Tavana weren’t the only Cougars to rewrite the record books in 2010. Supporting his Cougars with excellent ball placement was senior setter and co-captain Reed Chilton who finished the season with 1,203 assists to rank him seventh on BYU’s all-time single season assist list. Chilton earned honorable mention All-MPSF honors and was the only Cougar to be named to the MPSF All-Tournament team.
After returning from an LDS mission to the Philippines, sophomore Robb Stowell tallied the second-most kills for the Cougars with 414. He was named to the All-MPSF Third Team, while also achieving AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week and MPSF Player of the Week April 5th after his performance against then-No. 8 Long Beach State. He recorded double-doubles both nights, one block away from a triple-double the first night. Stowell averaged 3.80 kills per set, hitting at a .321 clip on the season.
Sophomore middle blocker Russell Lavaja led the team on the block with 165 total blocks, placing him fourth on the rally scoring record list. Lavaja earned honorable mention All-MPSF honors and helped the team earn the most blocks as a team in BYU history.
Senior libero Joel Silva and Stewart led BYU with 223 digs each on the season.
As a team, the Cougars set a new team single-season record for total blocks with 423, 19.5 more than the previous record set in 2009. With Chilton leading the way, the team also tallied the second-most team single-season assists with 1,782. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the NCAA and the MPSF in blocks per set with 3.55, while kills per game ranked them No. 4 in the Nation with 15.80.
BYU’s winning tradition at the Smith Fieldhouse continued with the Cougars earning a 12-3 home record. BYU has lost only eight home matches in the past four years.
“Winning 22 matches is something we are all proud of,” said Patchell. “We peaked at the right time and had a chance to win championships.”
To start off the winning ways, the Cougars traveled to Santa Barbara, Calif. for the UCSB Elephant Bar Tournament to take on No. 2 UC Irvine, No. 8 UCLA and No. 9 Cal State Northridge. BYU defeated the first two teams on Thursday 3-1, 3-2 and then fell to CSUN on Friday 1-3.
The Cougars’ next three-straight wins came from Pacific with two 3-0 sweeps and a split with No. 3 and eventual National Champion Stanford. The Cougars defeated the Cardinal on the first night 3-1, and then fell at home 1-3.
Next traveling to Los Angeles, the Cougars split with No. 6 UCLA, losing the first night 0-3 and coming back to defeat the Bruins in five. Continuing their longest road schedule of the season from Jan. 29-March 1, the Cougars next took on defending national champion UC Irvine. BYU was unable to establish a weekend sweep on the road, defeating UCI 3-2 on Thursday and falling on the second night to the Anteaters 0-3.
BYU earned its first road sweep against No. 14 UC San Diego on Feb. 19-20, the Cougars coming out on top 3-1, 3-0.
Despite a tsunami warning in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Cougars played at unexpected times against No. 8 Hawaii, the Warriors sweeping the Cougars 2-3 and 0-3.
Two non-conference matches were up next, No. 9 Penn State and St. Francis (Pa.) as part of the Long Beach State Active Ankle Classic. The Cougars won both of their matches in the tournament 3-1 to spark the 11-match win streak.
The last 8-of-10 regular-season matches were at home in the Smith Fieldhouse, as BYU went 9-1 to end the regular season. No. 7 Southern California was the first to come to the Fieldhouse and the Cougars won 3-1, 3-0, bringing their record to .500 (14-7).
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara was up next and lost to the Cougars 3-1 in consecutive matches. In the last two away matches of the regular season, the Cougars traveled to Long Beach State to post two more 3-1 victories.
Patchell not wanting a bye week before the last two conference matches, set up a meeting with NAIA Champion Cal Baptist for April 9-10. The Cougars beat the Lancers 3-0 both nights, earning their 20th win to improve their record to 20-7.
The last stumbling block before the MPSF Tournament was No. 3 Cal State Northridge, who had given the Cougars their first loss of the season at the UCSB Elephant Bar Tournament. Battling for the 12th-straight win, the Cougars fell to CSUN 3-2 on the second night after a 3-0 sweep the night before.
With the tiebreaker in favor of the Cougars, they were able to host the first round of the MPSF Tournament, welcoming No. 6 UCLA to Elaine Michaelis Court on April 24th for the quarterfinals. The Cougars won 3-1 to improve their record to 22-8.
The rest of the MPSF tournament was hosted by Stanford and the Cougars faced CSUN for the fourth time of the season. Unable to come out on top, BYU ended its season with a 2-3 loss to the Matadors.
Despite the early exit, Patchell and his team recognized that they put themselves in a great position at the end of the season.
“I am proud of the fact that our team was trained well enough to be put in a position to win championships,” said Patchell. “We had a chance to win the MPSF and host the MPSF playoffs but lost a close five-set match to place second. We also had a chance to go to the NCAA Final Four and lost another close five-set match in the semi-finals. Winning the big match is something that next year’s team will address and focus on.”
Despite not being invited to the NCAA Tournament, the BYU men’s volleyball team finished its season with a No. 2 national ranking in the AVCA Division I-II Men’s Coaches Top 15 Final Poll.
The six graduating seniors: Stewart, Chilton, Mat Taylor, Kent Tuttle, Yamil Perez and Silva will be greatly missed, but the returning players will be poised for another successful season in 2011.
“I am proud of our six graduating seniors,” said Patchell. “They have represented BYU by improving and epitomizing what it means to be a scholar-athlete.”