(Photo by Mark A. Philbrick)
After finishing the 2011 season with a No. 5 final national ranking and a final 20-8 record, the BYU men’s volleyball team is back and ready for action in 2012. The team returns three All-Americans in Taylor Sander, Futi Tavana and Robb Stowell, and six starters to its loaded roster.
Stepping up as the new head coach, Chris McGown joins the BYU men’s volleyball team with over 14 years of experience as a coach/clinician. McGown came to BYU from Gold Medal Squared volleyball camps where he has been involved since its inception in 1998, working as both an administrator and coach. As a player, McGown was a three-year letterman from 1990-94. He also had the opportunity to play under his father, legendary BYU coach Carl McGown.
The Cougars were chosen as the No. 1 team in the nation in the AVCA Division I-II Preseason poll for 2012. With a high expectation for success, the team has been preparing to perform to its best ability this season.
The Cougars’ season begins, as it usually does, at the annual Gaucho Invitational in Santa Barbara, Calif., with other teams like UC Irvine, Loyola-Chicago, Cal State Northridge, Ohio State, UCLA, UCSB and others.
After the tournament, the Cougars head back to California for a matchup with top-ranked UC Irvine. The Anteaters were ranked second in this year’s AVCA preseason poll. From there, the team returns home for four-straight matches again USC and Stanford before hitting the road against UC San Diego.
Eight home matches follow the short road swing with matchups against Cal Baptist, UCSB, Pepperdine and Pacific. The team plays 16 home matches this season with 14 of them being broadcast on national television through BYUtv.
To finish out the season, the Cougars head to Hawaii and then Long Beach before returning home again. A road match against UCLA and home match against Penn State are the final chances for the Cougars to prove themselves before the MPSF tournament on April 21-28.
2011 MPSF Freshman of the Year and All-American Taylor Sander returns at the outside hitter position after totaling 341 kills last season. Joining Sander are freshman Tyler Alberton, Josue Rivera and Phil Fuchs, and sophomore Andrew Heap. Heap played one year before his mission, in 2008. Rivera redshirted his freshman year so will return again this year as one of the most promising freshman in that position.
At opposite, senior Robb Stowell returns after being named an All-American last season. Stowell suffered two wrist injuries before the season started but is recovering well and ready to go. Also competing at that spot will be juniors Erik Mayer, Steve Rindfleish and Cameron Clifford, and sophomore Shane Tye.
BYU's middle blocker position is one of the most loaded. Competing for the two starting positions are seniors Quentin Smith and Futi Tavana, junior Russ Lavaja, sophomore Devin Young and freshman Price Jarman. The experience of Smith and Tavana will help continue a nation-leading legacy of good blockers at BYU.
Lavaja returns after sitting out last season due to injury. In 2009 he played in 97 sets while contributing 152 kills and 138 total blocks. Tavana is one of three returning All-Americans and, in his three previous years here, been consistently ranked in the top five in the nation for total season blocks. Smith also has experience from last year, playing in 18 sets while totaling nine kills and 17 blocks. Jarman will not compete this season because of his mission. He'll return for the 2014 volleyball year.
Senior Joe Kauliakamoa and junior Ryan Boyce return in the setter position as the two who will be the main competitors for the spot. Both Kauliakmoa and Boyce started matches last year and contributed to the team. Boyce played in 48 sets while contributing 183 assists and Kauliakmoa played in 93 sets while contributing 961 assists.
For further depth in the position, freshman Leo Durkin from Las Vegas will be learning the ropes from Boyce and Kauliakamoa's experience.
Returning junior Cory Jones and freshman Jaylen Reyes will be competing for the libero starting spot this season. Jones played in just one set last season behind now-graduated BJ Hiapo, a three-year starter, and Reyes joins the team with many years of volleyball experience.
With such an experienced roster and a returning star-studded cast, the Cougars have high hopes for 2012 even though they know they'll be competing against very talented teams all year.