Outside hitter Luka Slabe is one of three seniors playing his last two regular-season matches in the Smith Fieldhouse this weekend. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The Cougars are set to play their last two regular-season home matches this weekend, March 28 and 29, against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rival Long Beach State. These could prove to be two of the biggest home matches of the year for BYU in its second top-five matchup of the season.
Third ranked BYU (16-5, 14-4 MPSF) split a pair of matches last weekend with No. 7 Cal State Northridge, while fourth-ranked Long Beach State 15-8, 9-7 MPSF) is coming off a win over USC and a loss to top-ranked Pepperdine. Both teams have won seven of their last nine contests. In the series, Long Beach leads 12-6 since 1990, but the teams have split their last ten matches.
"We're ranked third and Long Beach is the fourth-ranked team," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "These are just great matches coming up. We're going to need a huge crowd and we're going to need our seniors to have good matches. We'll need everything we've got to win these last two home matches."
Three seniors on the BYU team will be playing their last regular-season matches in the Smith Fieldhouse this weekend. A brief ceremony will be held before the start of Saturday's match to honor Luka Slabe, Jaime Mayol and Rafael Paal. Each has different feelings about playing their last matches in the Smith Fieldhouse, but they all have the common goal of winning and making it to the championships.
"It all happened too fast." Slabe said. "I'm going to step up and play hard to beat Long Beach both nights. We want to have a good seed in the conference tournament, and we can't afford any losses. We want to win and go to the final four."
Both Slabe and Mayol were members of the 2001 team that won the National Championship.
"Our seniors have gone through a lot," Peterson said. "I want to honor them and make it special for them. We'll have to win this weekend for them, for us, for the whole team. We have to win to maintain anything we have. These are huge matches."
BYU is already guaranteed an MPSF Tournament berth, but it is in close competition with the rest of the top five teams to host the tournament. With No. 4 Long Beach this weekend and two matches at top-ranked Pepperdine in April to close out the season, the Cougars face some crucial competition and will have to give everything they've got to stay on top.
Both matches against Long Beach will be held at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. Friday night BYU's Black Student Union will perform at halftime, and Saturday night the seniors will be recognized just before the match and the BYU Breakdance Club will perform between games two and three. Tickets can be purchased at the door up to 90 minutes before game time or in advance at the Marriott Center Ticket Office.