PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team got its first taste of action under new head coach Tom Peterson this weekend at the Sixth Annual Husky Energy Can-Am Men's Volleyball Challenge at the University of Alberta. The Cougars, who played two matches on Friday and two matches on Saturday, came out with a 3-1 record against top Canadian teams.
BYU won the trophy for the Best American Record at the tournament, and had two players named to the NCAA Tournament All-Star Team.
"Playing in this tournament gave us a chance to look at ourselves and see where we are and what we have to work on," Peterson said. "We only had three days of actual practice before the tournament, so it was a good chance to look at ourselves and form a plan of what we need for the season."
The Can-Am Challenge pits four of the top teams from the NCAA against four of the top teams from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) in a unique country vs. country competition. Canada has won five of the six tournaments, including this year. Each country won eight matches in the tournament, but Canada came out victorious when sets won were used as the tie-breaker, giving Canada and the CIS a 33-28 win.
BYU started off well with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-19, 26-24) win Friday morning over Winnipeg, the 1999 CIS Champions. BYU opposite-side hitter Jonathan Alleman recorded match-highs for the Cougars with 19 kills and seven digs. Senior outside hitter Rafael Paal also had a good showing for the Cougars with ten kills and three digs, and sophomore setter Carlos Moreno recorded a blistering .857 (6-0-7) hitting percentage on the match.
In match two for the Cougars, BYU played host University of Alberta, the 2002 CIS champions. Although the Cougars led the match in kills, digs and assists, including Alleman's match-high nine kills and seven digs, they fell short on blocking and lost the match 0-3 (17-25, 17-25, 24-26). Stephen Ens led UofA with 13 kills and three service aces on the night.
BYU made a comeback in its third match, battling Trinity Western University for a 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 18-16) win Saturday morning. In game one the Cougars recorded a .423 hitting percentage with 14 kills on 26 attempts and 3 errors to give them the lead. Senior outside hitter Luka Slabe recorded a match-high18 kills on 31 attempts (.484) for the Cougars, while sophomore setter/opposite side hitter Casey Patterson added 15 kills in securing the win. Trinity Western's Chris Kennedy recorded a team-high17 kills and eight digs.
BYU finished its part in the tournament Saturday night against Manitoba, the 2000 and 2001 CIS champions. Led by Alleman and junior middle blocker Chris Gorny with 10 kills each, and by junior libero Fernando Pessoa with six digs, the Cougars beat Manitoba 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) to finish the Can Am Tournament 3-1 overall.
"We did lose one match," Peterson said, "so to be able to come back and win took a whole team effort. For us to have a chance to win the championship this year it will take a whole team effort. We will be focusing on a team strategy."
Luka Slabe and Carlos Moreno were named to the NCAA Tournament All-Star team from BYU, joining Sean Rooney and Brad Keenan from Pepperdine (3-1), Jonathan Acosta from UCLA (1-3) and Aaron Mansfield from UCSB (1-3).