PROVO -- BYU men's volleyball head coach Tom Peterson will have his first matchup against one of his previous assistant coaches this weekend as the third-ranked Cougars host No. 11 Penn State for the first time in 12 years. Penn State (13-3, 9-0 EIVA) is a member of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
With Penn State coming to Provo on Friday and Saturday, Peterson is feeling a little extra pressure. The Nittany Lions made four NCAA Tournament appearances and won their only national championship in 1994 with Peterson as their head coach.
"Penn State is a good team," Peterson said. "I don't want to lose these matches, especially since their head coach (Mark Pavlik) was my assistant coach when I was there."
Pavlik took over as head coach after five years as Peterson's assistant, and Friday's match will mark the first meeting between the two coaches. The teams have only competed twice since the Nittany Lions beat the Cougars in 1994 with Peterson at the helm, but BYU won both of those matches on neutral turf. Overall, the Cougars are behind in the series 2-4 since 1990.
A Quick Look at the Cougars
The Cougars have earned an 12-3 overall record on the season. BYU's 11-3 MPSF record marks the second best in the conference after top-ranked Pepperdine. As a team, BYU is among the leaders for hitting percentage, aces and blocking in the MPSF. Sophomore middle blocker Michael Burke is second in the conference for individual hitting percentage, averaging .475 per game, and adds a team-leading 1.15 blocks per game. Two Cougars, Rafael Paal and Jonathan Alleman, have earned National Player of the Week honors this season. Alleman is among the top 20 nationally for average kills (4.27) and hitting percentage per game (.419).
Series with the Nittany Lions
This will be BYU's seventh meeting with Penn State. In the overall series, Penn State leads 4-2, but the Cougars have won the last two matches. The Nittany Lions have not played in the Fieldhouse since 1991, when they won a tight 3-2 match over the Cougars. Interestingly, the last three matches between the two teams were held in years when one of the teams won the national championship. In 1994 (under head coach Tom Peterson) the Nittany Lions beat the Cougars 3-1 during the season on their way to the national championship. In similar fashion, the Cougars beat the Nittany Lions 3-1 in both 1999 and 2001 in the semifinal round of the national tournament before going on to win the championship. If the Cougars win the two matches this weekend, coach Peterson will have coached six matches for the winning team in the series.
Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions hold a 13-3 overall and a 9-0 EIVA record coming into the matches with BYU. The Nittany Lions are riding an eight-match win streak, most recently recording wins over EIVA rivals George Mason and Princeton. Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik recorded his 200th career victory at George Mason Tuesday night (March 4), and senior Carlos Guerra recorded a school-record 32 kills in the match. On the season, the Nittany Lions average a .336 attact percent, led Keith Kowal's .485 average and Guerra's 4.38 kills per game.
The Cougars will host fourth-ranked UC Irvine in two matches next weekend (Mar. 14-15). In the series, the Cougars hold a 21-5 advantage over the anteaters and have won the last four contests. Both matches will be held at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. Tickets will be available at the gate an hour and a half prior to game time for $6 or through the Marriott Center Ticket Office (801-378-BYU1).
BYU USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll
BYU is enjoying it's second week at No. 3 in the polls. BYU has steadily climbed its way up in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top-15 polls since January 14. After starting the season ranked fifth in the preseason poll, the BYU Cougars spent a few weeks in the fourth position and are now ranked third. Last year the Cougars finished the season ranked third in the nation.