PROVO -- Having won three of four matches to start the season, the fifth-ranked BYU men's volleyball team (3-1) will continue its eight-match home stand with a weekend clash against one of the nation's top volleyball programs. The Cougars will take on 12th-ranked USC this weekend, squaring off on both Friday and Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MST).
"USC has one of the premier athletic departments in the nation," BYU head coach Carl McGown said. "They have great teams at USC and its men's volleyball team is no exception. They have won four national championships and have always been one of the top teams in the country. It is exciting to be able to play teams like USC."
Friday's match will mark the 18th meeting between the two teams, with BYU holding a 10-7 lead in the rivalry. After USC started the series with four straight wins from 1990-1992, the Cougars went on to win five straight matches from 1992-1995. The Trojans won again in 1996 and 1997, but BYU has stormed back to win five of the last six matches. The Cougars are 5-4 in Provo and have won three-straight over USC in the Smith Fieldhouse, dating back to Feb. 13, 1998.
After opening the 2002 campaign with a 3-0 win over La Verne, USC stumbled against Pepperdine, UCLA and UC Irvine. However, the Trojans (4-3) have rebounded as of late and will enter this weekend's competition with a three-match win streak, including wins over UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego and Cal Baptist.
Behind senior Brook Billings' team-leading 130 kills, the Trojans are hitting .274 on the season. Billings has posted a 5.20 kills-per-game average and also leads the team with 12 aces.
"Brook has one of the finest arms in collegiate volleyball," McGown said. "He's their guy. He's their team leader and he's the guy we need to focus on."
The Cougars will look to All-American Mike Wall to continue his blistering pace after setting a four-game record with 30 kills against Pacific on Saturday. Wall leads BYU with 96 kills on the season, averaging 5.65 kills per game. Senior outside hitter Joaquin Acosta is close behind with 82 kills over 17 games, posting a 4.82 kills-per-game average. The trio of Wall, Chris Gorny and Rafael Paal lead the BYU roster with 18 blocks each.
Having only been in Provo since Jan. 12, newcomer Carlos Moreno is expected to start at setter for the Cougars. Moreno, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, arrived in town on the night of the Cougars' 3-2 win over Stanford and has practiced just four days last week and another four days this week.
"He's only been in our gym, not even two weeks," McGown said. "We started his against Pacific last week and realized we still had some work to do. He's making remarkable improvement. With more practice and game experience, he should be a terrific setter."
In his first collegiate start, Moreno recorded 54 kills and had one ace. He was also credited with three blocks in helping pace the Cougars to a 3-1 win over Pacific.
Friday's game will be televised live locally on KBYU (Ch. 11) and across the country on BYU-TV. (BYU-TV is available on the Dish Network and Direct TV Plus.) For more information on BYU-TV availability, please visit their website at: www.byutv.org. Chris Tunis will call the action with Chris McGown lending expert analysis.