PROVO -- With the 2002 Olympic Winter Games just around the corner, many Utah residents are preparing for thousands of visitors from around the world. With a myriad of athletes, journalists, spectators, tourists, workers and the many others who will travel to Utah throughout the month of February, everyone from the local grocery store clerk to the grade-school teacher will be effected in one way or another. Interestingly, the BYU men's volleyball team is no exception.
When the Olympics come to town, the Cougars will leave. Not because they want to, but because teams who would normally come to Provo, using as many as 10-15 hotel rooms each night, would have no place to stay. So, BYU will take to the road throughout the month of February. In fact, the BYU men's and women's basketball teams have also had to make similar adjustments to their schedules, and will spend the majority of the month of February on the road.
The defending NCAA National Champions will travel to Long Beach State on Feb. 6-8, followed by matches at UC Irvine on Feb. 9. BYU will travel back to California later in the month, taking on UC Irvine again on Feb. 20; then wrap things up with two matches at UCLA on Feb. 21-23.
Prior to the beginning of the season, the Cougars were forced to rearrange their schedule to accommodate the Olympics. In doing so, BYU opened the season with one of the nation's top teams. BYU split a pair of matches against Stanford, but is now preparing for its second-straight match against a nationally-ranked opponent. In fact, BYU will play eight straight home matches-all against nationally-ranked opponents--before heading to California for the month of February. This presents a good-bad scenario for BYU head coach Carl McGown.
"Obviously you like to play the tough teams at home," McGown said. "However, like any team, we generally try and get a few preseason matches lined up before we have to go out and play all the top teams. With the Olympics, we have had to change our schedule around and start the season running. We don't have any room for error."
According to McGown, the Cougars were slated to play teams like Stanford and Pacific later in February, but needed to move the games up.
"It is a little more difficult to start the season this way, but like everyone in Utah, we needed to move things around to accommodate the Olympics."
So, while the competition may be a few notches above normal at this time of year, the Cougars will look to take advantage of their January home-stand. Already 1-1 on the season, BYU will play host to No. 15 Pacific on Friday-Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. (MST) on both nights.
The Tigers come to Provo with a 1-2 mark on the season, having lost two straight matches entering this weekend's double-header. On Tuesday, Pacific dropped a 3-0 decision at home against Stanford.
"Pacific is a very good team," McGown said. "They return their entire starting lineup from last season and have a couple other guys who are very, very good. I'm telling you, Pacific is a very good team. They have not played all their top guys lately, due to some suspensions, but I'm expecting them to have their full lineup ready to go this weekend. We will need to be on top of our game."