Cougars Ready to Saddle Up Against Gauchos

PROVO -- After sweeping UC Irvine both nights for a ten-match winning streak, the No. 3-ranked BYU men's volleyball team will take on No. 6-ranked UC Santa Barbara at home on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Cougar Club members will receive half-priced discounts with membership cards for Friday's Western Night.

Securing the top spot in conference, the Cougars move ahead Hawai`i with the best record in the league, 9-1. BYU (11-3 overall) also moved up from fourth place to third place in the USA Today/AVCA Top 15 Coaches' Poll.

"We have to put together a whole game against Santa Barbara," head coach Tom Peterson said. "They beat No. 3 Long Beach State, so they can get on fire quickly and surprise people."

The match up this weekend will be the 28th meeting between the two teams, as BYU leads the series 15-13 overall, including 9-5 in Provo. Last season, the Cougars split with the Gauchos, winning the first match 3-0 on Valentine's Day but falling in three games the day after.

During last week, BYU traveled to UC Irvine and came back with two wins, both in four games. After losing the first game, the Cougars came back to dominate ninth-ranked UC Irvine 3-1, extending its winning streak to ten matches. The game scores for the match were 26-30, 30-24, 30-21, 30-26.

Since the NCAA adopted rally scoring, this ten-match winning streak ties the longest streak from 2001 when the Cougars won the National Championship. The Anteaters dropped to 7-11 overall, 3-8 in league play.

Coming back from a preseason shoulder injury, junior Mike Burke picked up where he left off in his first match, claiming 15 kills in 19 attempts and a career-high .737 percentage. He also added a match-high six blocks to help BYU to 11.5 total team blocks. Last season Burke earned All-MPSF Honorable Mention honors and led the Cougars with 155 total blocks and 1.41 blocks per game.

"Mike played a great match and blocked the ball at the right times," Peterson said. "To have him come back sooner than expected and to play a whole match is great for us since Chris is out for a couple of weeks."

BYU picked up the first win over the UCI on Wednesday of last week, 3-1 (30-23, 23-30, 30-24, 30-26). The Cougars started game one with a scorching .706 percentage, hitting 13 of 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. BYU made up some ground on defense when the team was struggling with serving. The Cougars missed 23 serves on the night with nine coming in the first game.

"We having been struggling on serving but we are capable of serving well," Peterson said. "We just can't dwell on previous bad serves."

Friday's match will feature Western Night, where fans can wear their western garb and receive a free prize from BYU Athletics. In addition, all Cougar Club members and their immediate family will receive half-priced discounts with a membership card. Chamber of Commerce members can contact Emily Deans or Jeff Davis in Marketing to receive special group rates also on Friday night.

Next week the Cougars will complete their four-match home stand against Pepperdine, Mar. 12-13 at 7 p.m. Saturday's match will be broadcast on KBYU and BYUTV.

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