Freshman Russell Lavaja (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
After splitting a pair of matches against UCLA, the No. 6 BYU men’s volleyball team (14-9, 10-6 MPSF) hosts first-ranked UC Irvine (19-3, 14-2 MPSF) at home in the Smith Fieldhouse for two matches on Thursday and Friday nights. Despite having no seniors on the team, this pair of home matches will mark the last of the Cougars’ 2009 regular season.
The Anteaters are the second No. 1 team BYU has faced this season, the first being then-No. 1 Cal State Northridge on March 5 & 6. UCI is the first top-ranked team to come to Provo since the Cougars hosted No. 1 Pepperdine on Feb. 4, 2006.
After dropping only its second home match of the season last Friday, BYU rebounded with a 3-1 win over UCLA Saturday night. Kevin Sagers, Mat Taylor and Andrew Stewart all recorded double-digit kills in the win.
UCI’s extended its winning streak to seven matches after sweeping No. 13 Hawaii on Friday. Carson Clark, a freshman opposite, pounded a match-high 20 kills, while Austin D’Amore, a freshman middle blocker, recorded a career-high 10 kills and hit .562 (10-1-16). The duo each added five block assists.
The Cougars are 15-5 against the Anteaters since 2001, but only 4-5 against them since the 2006 season. BYU defeated UCI in three matchups in 2008, including two in Irvine, Calif. and one at the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals. After defeating the Anteaters, the Cougars eventually reached the championship match where they fell to Pepperdine in five sets.
BYU and UCI met earlier this season in the second round of the UC Santa Barbara Elephant Bar Tournament. Despite defeating the Anteaters in four games at the BYU Tournament in December, it was the Cougars who fell in four sets as UCI pulled ahead to win a close 30-27 fourth set and the match.
Live stats can be accessed by visiting BYU’s men’s volleyball schedule page at www.byucougars.com. The live stats can be launched by clicking on the “Live Stats” link for the appropriate game on the schedule page.
Coming Off...A Win Against No. 10 UCLA
After dropping the first set the No. 5 Cougars stormed back to win the next three, defeating No. 10 UCLA 3-1 in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Overall, junior setter Yamil Perez had a match-high 57 assists while sophomore outside hitter Kevin Sagers led the Cougars with 16 kills. Two other Cougars, junior opposite Mat Taylor and junior outside hitter Andrew Stewart, had double-digit kills as well. The Bruins out-hit the Cougars .275 to .252, but were not able to convert at key points in the match.
The Cougars hit the road for the final two weeks of the regular season. They first travel to Stanford for two matches on April 10 & 11. BYU then closes out conference play at Pepperdine on April 16 & 17.
Last Year Against UC Irvine
April 19, 2008
It took four sets for the No. 3 BYU men’s volleyball team (24-4, 18-4) to beat No. 8 UC Irvine (16-15, 11-11) in the Smith Fieldhouse as the Cougars advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs with the 3-1 win (30-20, 30-22, 28-30, 30-28).
Senior All-MPSF First Team selection Ivan Perez recorded a match-high 19 kills on .406 hitting with a match-high 12 digs. The feat marked the ninth double-double for Perez this season. Joining Perez with 10 or more kills were sophomore Andrew Stewart (12), senior Jonathan Charette (11), and senior All-MPSF First Team honoree Russell Holmes (10).
The Cougars dominated the first set both offensively and defensively in a 30-20 win. BYU hit .517 as a team with Charette tallying five kills on eight swings to lead all attackers. The Cougars also racked up 4.5 total team blocks in the set, including a set-winning block solo from Holmes, an All-MPSF First Team selection. The Anteaters hit only .111 as a team in the set with 1.0 total team blocks.
The second set opened with a much closer battle than the first set ended, but BYU finished strong to take the set 30-22. UCI was down only two at 16-14, but would not get any closer. The Cougars continued to smoke the ball on offense and remain solid at the net with a .556 attack percentage and 4.0 total team blocks in the set. Perez, another All-MPSF honoree, led all attackers with six kills on six swings in the set.
The Anteaters won the fourth set 30-28 thanks to a 5-0 run at the end of the set. UCI led 12-11, and did not lead again until they were up 29-28. BYU led 28-25, but lost the next five points to drop the set. The Cougars hit .357 to UCI’s .250, had 2.0 blocks to UCI’s none, and 16 digs to UCI’s eight, but were still not able to close out the set.
The 30-28 fourth-set win was a far cry from BYU’s two previous set wins. Neither team was able to pull away during the set though both teams held the lead at various points in the set. The Anteaters last held the lead at 26-25 and were within a point down 29-28, but Perez’s 19th kill of the match sealed UCI’s fate and propelled the Cougars into the semifinals of the MPSF playoffs.