Cougars Win Las Vegas Tournament

PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team played and beat three top U.S. teams this weekend in a Las Vegas Tournament, upping their preseason record to 7-1 in preparation for regular-season play that begins in January.

The tournament, sponsored by Long Beach State and the Orleans hotel in Las Vegas, included conference rivals BYU, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, as well as a local Las Vegas club team. The Cougars won all four of their matches, three of them in just three games.

"We came to give the guys some playing experience and see where we're at," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "We were able to play everybody, so we have a good idea of what to do for the regular season."

On Friday BYU commenced its tournament play against UC Irvine, coming from a first-game loss to win the match in four (25-30, 30-28, 30-26, 30-25). Sophomore middle blocker Mike Burke led the Cougars in hitting percentage with a .520 and 11 kills.

Match two for the Cougars was a three game thriller against the Las Vegas Volleyball Club. BYU won the first two games 30-22, but Las Vegas put up close fight in the third. With the score tied at 31, sophomore setter Casey Patterson had a block to put the Cougars up by one, then executed the game-winning kill. Senior middle blocker Rafael Paal contributed 11 kills in the win (.580), and junior outside hitter Tim Layton added 13 kills with a .460 hitting percentage.

"The team as a whole hit a .460 average in the tournament," Peterson said. "We are very pleased about that."

On Saturday morning the Cougars again faced UC Irvine, this time pulling off a 3-game win (30-27, 30-25, 30-18). Paal hit a blistering .630 with 13 kills, aided by Patterson with nine kills. Jonathan Alleman and Chris Gorny led the team in blocking.

In their last match of the tournament, the Cougars played Long Beach State, again pulling off the win in three (30-28, 30-24, 30-27). Senior outside hitter Luka Slabe was on fire, hitting match-high .790 with 16 kills, recording a perfect hitting percentage in the first two games. Burke added 11 kills (.390) and Gorny recorded 6 kills in the win.

The Cougars' next scheduled match is the Blue and White Match, a team scrimmage that will be held Friday, Nov. 8 after the women's volleyball match at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. Men's volleyball season play begins Jan. 10, 2003 against Red Deer College.