Senior middle blocker Michael Burke will play in the final home matches of his career when the Cougars take on UC San Diego this Friday and Saturday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- BYU's three seniors will play in the final regular-season home matches of their careers as the Cougars play the Tritons of UC San Diego Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Michael Burke, Rob Congelliere and Casey Patterson are BYU's three departing seniors.
"They have all made big contributions to the program, on and off the court," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "We hope a big crowd will come out and support them and the rest of the team in the final home matches of the season. It will be the last time fans will get to see us as the defending 2004 National Champions."
The seniors will be honored following the conclusion of Saturday's match.
The Cougars are coming off a split with Cal State Northridge and now own a 16-9 overall record and are 11-7 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. These matches with UCSD are pivotal in BYU's ranking in the MPSF and eventual seeding in the league tournament. The Cougars are currently tied with Long Beach State (11-7) for fifth while Hawai'i and UC Santa Barbara (12-6) are tied for third. Pepperdine (17-2) is first and UCLA (16-3) is second.
"The rest of our matches are for seeding in the MPSF tournament," Peterson said. "It's not in our own hands, but the teams ahead of us are playing each other. We could end up with a decent seed, but we have to win these matches."
The Tritons are coached by Ron Larsen, one of three BYU graduates, along with Mike Wilton of Hawai'i and BYU's Peterson, that coach in the MPSF. He played for the Cougars' club volleyball team in the early 1970s.
The 2005 season has been difficult for UCSD, with records of 2-20 overall and 1-17 in the MPSF. The Tritons have played much better in recent weeks however, defeating Cal Baptist, 3-2 (March 9) and USC, 3-1 (March 30) and taking Long Beach State to five games (March 11). The victory over USC was UCSD's first league win of the year. The Tritons followed that match with a 3-0 loss to Pepperdine.
"Even though their record isn't very impressive, every team in our league is good," Peterson said. "They'd been beat up but they're healthy now. We have to take care of business with them."
Luke Honnette has developed into UCSD's go-to player, averaging 4.13 kills per game on the season. He is also one of the top defensive players on the squad, registering 1.30 digs per game. Adam Toren, who is second on the team in kills per game at 2.95, leads the Tritons in aces at 0.31 per game and 17 on the season. Last season against BYU, Toren played one of the best matches of his career, registering 20 kills while hitting .667 (20-2-27). Adam Rusch is third on the squad with a 2.08 kills-per-game average and is the owner of a .328 hitting percentage and a 0.99 blocks-per-game average, both team highs.
BYU will be looking to recover from Saturday night's match, in which the Cougars hit just .170 (42-26-94) and were swept by Cal State Northridge. The night before, BYU gutted out a 3-1 win over the Matadors. Victor Batista had the hot hand that night, pounding out 19 kills and hitting .680 (19-2-25).
Michael Burke continues to lead the Cougars with a .457 (231-44-409) hitting percentage and a 1.32 blocks-per-game average. Following his impressive play in the month of March, Ivan Perez is leading the team in kills at 3.70 per game, is second in digs at 1.45 and in hitting percentage for players with over 200 attempts at .326 (311-117-596).
After this weekend's matches against UCSD, BYU will conclude its regular season on the road against Stanford. The Cougars and the Cardinal will play two matches, Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16.
Friday and Saturday's match will be broadcast on BYU Radio. To listen, visit http://www.byuradio.org/ or click here. To follow the matches online, visit http://www.byucougars.com/ or click here.