Cougars Host UC Irvine in MPSF First Round

PROVO -- On Saturday, April 24 at 7 p.m. the top-ranked BYU men's volleyball team will begin post-season play as the team plays host to UC Irvine in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament at the Smith Fieldhouse.

BYU (24-4, 20-2 MPSF) clinched the outright regular-season title and will compete as the No. 1 seed in the tournament, while the Anteaters (14-17, 7-7 MPSF) are seeded eighth. The Anteaters qualified for the tournament as the eighth seed with wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge last week. The Anteaters upset No. 6 Hawaii, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara and No. 5 Cal State Northridge to end the regular season.

"UC Irvine is a hot team right now," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "They have won six of their last eight matches against good conference teams. We can't take them lightly because their players have more experience now then when they started the season. We have to begin the match playing well and get things going."

Irvine hosted BYU on February 26 and 28 during the regular season, when the Cougars extended their win streak to 10 matches after two four-game wins at Crawford Court. In the series opener with the Anteaters, the Cougars started game one with a scorching .706 percentage, hitting 13 kills on 17 attempts with only one attack error. Defense was a key for the team, racking up 31 digs and 11.5 total blocks compared with UCI's eight blocks and 22 digs. In the second match, BYU came back to dominate the match after dropping game one. Mike Burke had come back from his preseason shoulder injury and claimed 15 kills in 19 attempts and a match-high .737 percentage.

The match on Thursday will be the 24th meeting between the two teams, with BYU holding a 25-5 overall record over UC Irvine. At home, BYU holds a 7-4 record over UCI.

After overcoming USC last week in a three-game sweep on Thursday and a five-game thriller on Saturday, the Cougars sealed its position as the top seed in the MPSF tournament. BYU continues to sit atop the conference for the eighth-straight week and rank No.1 in the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the seventh-straight week. Only the top eight teams from the MPSF compete in the tournament, and 2004 marks BYU's eighth-straight trip to the post season and the tenth appearance since the program began in 1990.

The Cougars met UCI in 2001 for the first round of the MPSF Tournament, advancing after a 3-1 victory over the Anteaters to the Semi-finals against Hawai`i. The Warriors defeated BYU 3-1, but the Cougars earned the NCAA automatic bid to the Final Four, eventually bringing home the second national championship for BYU.

The winner of the first-round match between BYU and UCI will play the winner of the Pepperdine-Cal State Northridge match on Thursday, April 29 at 7 p.m. If the Cougars win and advance to the next round, they will host the MPSF Semi-finals and Finals at the Smith Fieldhouse. Should the Cougars lose to the Anteaters, the tournament will move to the home court of the highest remaining seed after the first round of competition.

MPSF TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Saturday, April 24

#8 UC Irvine at #1 BYU (7 p.m.)

#7 UC Santa Barbara at #2 Long Beach State

#6 Hawai'i at #3 UCLA

#5 CS Northridge at #4 Pepperdine

Thursday, April 29

CS Northridge or Pepperdine vs. BYU or UC Irvine - 7 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara or Long Beach State vs. Hawaii or UCLA - 9 p.m.

Saturday, May 1

Championship Match - 7:30 p.m.

(All times listed are MDT)

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