PROVO -- After spending the past month on the road, the third-ranked BYU men's volleyball team will return to the friendly confines of the Smith Fieldhouse this weekend. The Cougars (11-3, 9-3) will take on fourth-ranked Pepperdine in a pair of crucial MPSF matches, beginning Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. (MST).
"Although we are excited to come back and play in the Fieldhouse, in front of our own fans, I'm not sure how effective we will be right off the bat," BYU head coach Carl McGown said. "Playing at altitude has a real effect on the game of volleyball. Having been down at sea level for the past month, we have gotten used to playing under those conditions. It will take a little time before we can make the necessary adjustments to play in Utah, as opposed to California."
Pepperdine enters this weekend's matches with a 13-4 record, including a mark of 8-2 in league play. While 7-1 at home, the Waves have won just four of seven matches on the road this season. Pepperdine has won three of its last five matches, including a 3-2 win over No. 7 Stanford on Feb. 22. The Waves have dropped matches at UC Irvine, UCLA, Pacific and against UC Santa Barbara.
"These two matches against Pepperdine will determine our destiny," McGown added. "If we happen to win both, then I think we will be in a nice situation, but if we should lose, then it could be a real struggle for us. This weekend's matches will be the hinge that will determine which way our season swings."
The Waves are hitting .352 on the season, led by junior middle blocker Brad Keenan, who has posted a team-best .479 average against league opponents. Freshman Sean Rooney leads Pepperdine with 249 kills over 63 games, averaging 3.8 kills per game. Defensively, the Waves have out-blocked their opponents by a over 100 blocks on the season. Pepperdine is averaging over three blocks per game, while its opponents have registered a mark of just 1.6 blocks per contest. Middle blocker Lance Sorenson leads the team with an average 2.5 blocks per game.
"I think Pepperdine is the best team in the nation," McGown said. "If I were to pick this year's National Champion, I would have to say Pepperdine has the best shot. They are very good team and I would not be surprised if they win the National Championship this season."
The Cougars are coming off a six-match road stint, having posted a 4-2 mark, including wins over No. 2 UCLA, eighth-ranked UC Irvine and No. 14 Long Beach State. After losing its home, season-opener against Stanford, BYU has reeled off seven straight victories in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Waves own a 13-10 advantage in the series, dating back to the 1990 season. BYU has posted a 7-4 mark against Pepperdine in Provo, including six straight wins dating back to the 1995 season. BYU has not lost to Pepperdine in Provo since Feb. 13, 1993.