PROVO -- After splitting a pair of matches against third-ranked UCLA last week, the No. 1-ranked BYU men's volleyball team (22-4, 18-2 MPSF) will conclude its 2004 MPSF slate with a two-match home stand against USC on Apr. 15 and 17. Both matches start at 7 p.m. (MST) at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Thursday's match will be broadcast live on KBYU and BYUTV, while Saturday's match will recognize the seven seniors on the BYU squad and their parents. The seniors include Joe Hillman, Jon Alleman, Fernando Pessoa, Cory Carpenter, Shawn Olmstead, Chris Gorny and Dave Hyte.
BYU head coach Tom Peterson said this week's matches will showcase the experience and leadership of the seniors.
"We want to show off how hard the seniors have worked during the season and through their time at BYU," Peterson said. "The experience and maturity from these young men have set a standard for the team. That's why we're in the position we're in. We're going to miss them next year."
The Cougars set a new school record last Thursday with their 21-straight victory, but a five-game loss on Friday ended the streak. Thursday's win also clinched at least a share of the regular-season title for BYU and marked the 250th win in the program's 15-year history. The Cougars' overall record at home stands at 146-52 (.737) and since 1997, BYU has won 107 matches and has only lost 13 (.892).
The Cougars continue to sit atop the conference for the seventh-straight week and rank No.1 on the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the sixth-straight week. With an 18-2 league record, the Cougars currently own a one-and-a-half match lead over second-place Long Beach State. The 49'ers will close out their conference schedule on Apr. 17 against UCSD.
While the Cougars can do no worse than tie for the regular-season title, BYU owns the tiebreaker against Long Beach State and could host all three rounds of the 2004 MPSF Tournament, beginning Apr. 24. A win on Thursday against the Trojans guarantees the Cougars the outright MPSF regular-season championship title.
"These matches are a gauge for us going into the post season," Peterson said. "Teams are getting better at the end of the season and we need to make sure that we are too. We have to be under control in blocking and serving, even with changes in the line-ups."
In the team's first loss since Jan. 17 -- the fourth of the season -- BYU could not hold off a resilient UCLA team that bounced back from a 2-0 deficit, ending the Cougars' 21-match win streak. The game scores were 30-28, 30-26, 22-30, 27-30, 9-15. Senior outside hitter Fernando Pessoa had another consistent performance despite the loss with a career-high 26 kills and pitched in nine digs, while hitting a .452 clip for the match.
BYU overcame a tight four-game contest at Pauley Pavilion, where the Cougars extended to a win streak of 21 victories. The game scores were 33-31, 30-26, 29-31, 32-30. Senior Fernando Pessoa led BYU with 20 kills, while Joe Hillman chipped in a double-double performance with 16 kills and a career-high 10 digs. Senior Jonathan Alleman also pitched in his third double-double of the season with 12 kills and a career-high 13 digs in the win.
The match on Thursday will be the 22nd meeting between the two teams, with BYU holding a 14-7 overall record over USC. The Cougars swept the Trojans, 6-0 in two matches, last year in Los Angeles. At home, BYU holds a 7-4 record over USC.
BYU will host the first round of the MPSF Tournament on Apr. 24 against the eighth-seeded team in the conference. While the Cougars have earned the right to host all three rounds of the MPSF Tournament, a first-round loss would move the tournament to the highest remaining seed after the first-round of competition.
Thursday's match offers a $25 group rate for high school teams and youth groups coming to watch the Cougars. Teams must show a roster with the names of coaches. Saturday's match will also offer local club teams a group rate of $25.