Cougars Hit the Road to Face UC Irvine

PROVO -- Coming off a two-match sweep over Stanford, the No.4 ranked BYU men's volleyball team will test its eight-match winning streak on the road against ninth-ranked UC Irvine, on Feb. 26 and 28.

"UC Irvine is very well-coached team," head coach Tom Peterson said. "When they play well, they can cause some problems. They have senior Jimmy Pelzel, who is a high caliber player and caused problems for us last year."

This will be the 29th meeting between the two teams, as the Cougars lead with a 23-5 all-time record and 11-3 at the Anteaters' gym. Last season BYU swept UC Irvine at home on Mar. 14-15, 2003.

The team climbed into a tie with league-leading Hawaii on Saturday after sweeping No. 11 Stanford for the second straight night (38-36, 30-28, 30-25). The Cougars hit .484 on the night, connecting on a three game season-high 74 kills on 124 attempts. BYU started the match on a blistering pace, racking up 31 kills on 43 attempts (.605) with just five errors.

Hitting his career-best .700 percentage, senior outside hitter Fernando Pessoa racked up 16 kills to lead the BYU 3-0 (30-24, 30-24, 30-25) over the Cardinal on Friday.

The Cougars hit a .520 percentage in the third game, powered by senior opposite Joe Hillman with 10 kills for the match and a season-best .471 hitting percentage. Transfer sophomore Victor Batista led the front row in blocking, recording six blocks on the night. Batista also gave the team seven kills and two aces.

With the wins, the Cougars, who have not lost a single game over a four-match period, improve to 9-3 overall on the season and 7-1 in MPSF action. The Cardinal dropped to 5-11 overall and 3-9 in league play.

Junior middle blocker Mike Burke will be rejoining BYU for its road trip after coming back from a shoulder injury, although it's unlikely Chris Gorny will be traveling due to an ankle injury suffered in Friday's match against Stanford.

"It's nice we have guys coming back from injury like Mike Burke," Peterson said. "But it will be hard to have any continuity. When Gorny went out, it disrupts the flow of our lineup, but it's nice that we have a deep team so guys can come in and do a good job. It will take all of us to play well against Irvine, not just a few."

Leading the Cougars in kills is All-America candidate Fernando Pessoa with 168 kills, averaging 4.10 per game. Following behind are seniors Joe Hillman and All-American Jonathan Alleman with 3.58 and 3.56 kills per game, respectively.

All-American setter Carlos Moreno has tallied 555 assists for the season, including 13.88 assists per game and senior libero Shawn Olmstead leads the team with 1.79 digs per game.

The matches begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday and 4 p.m. on Saturday at Crawford Court.

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