Senior Fernando Pessoa joins the top-ranked Cougars in their last regular-season road trip at UCLA on Apr. 8-9. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- After downing UC San Diego last week, the No. 1-ranked BYU men's volleyball team (21-3, 17-1 MPSF) will make its final road trip of the regular season to UCLA on Apr. 8-9. The match begins at 7 p.m. (PST) at Pauley Pavilion.
The Cougars broke a school record on Friday with their 19-straight victory and then added one more on Saturday to make a 20-match win streak. With the two wins, BYU has now posted another season with over 20 wins, the seventh time in the program's 15-year history.
"UCLA is playing very well and their team is very deep," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "These matches determine what happens in play-offs and the rankings at the end of the season. It is a huge weekend for us. We need to be more disciplined in every aspect of our play."
With a league-leading 17-1 record, the Cougars have already clinched a MPSF Tourney first-round home match on Apr. 24. BYU alsocontinues to sit atop the conference for the sixth straight week and in first place of the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the fifth straight week, earning a unanimous selection with all 16 first-place votes. With a 17-1 league record, the Cougars own a three-match lead over second-place Long Beach State. BYU needs to win at least one match against UCLA to clinch home-court advantage in the MPSF Tournament.
The match on Thursday will be the 33rd meeting between the two teams, with UCLA holding a 22-10 overall record over BYU. The Cougars swept the Bruins at home last year, 3-0 in both matches. At the Pauley Pavilion, UCLA holds a 13-2 record.
Taking the match 3-0 last Saturday, the Cougars fought past host UCSD on Saturday at the RIMAC Arena. The Cougars out-hit UCSD, .313 to .221, as well as out-blocking, 13.5 to seven. Leading BYU with his 20th double-digit performance of the season was senior outside hitter Fernando Pessoa with 14 kills and six digs, while hitting a .458 clip for the match. Junior middle Michael Burke and senior opposite Joe Hillman also remained solid with 10 kills each, with Burke hitting a .714 percentage (10-0-14).
In its record-setting match on Friday, the team defeated UCSD, 3-1. The match was played in front of a season-high UCSD home crowd of 612. BYU hit .500, including an impressive .800 (17-1-20) in game one, while UCSD hit .300. Joe Hillman and Jon Alleman led the Cougars with 14 kills apiece, both hitting over .500 average for the match. Mike Burke Burke also registered a blistering career-high .786 hitting percentage (11-0-14), while adding two blocks during the match.
In MPSF action last week, UCLA used a balanced offensive attack to defeat No. 4 Pepperdine in three games on Saturday night at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Bruins won by scores of 30-26, 30-25, 30-25 before 2,657 fans in 84 minutes. UCLA improved to 20-4 on the season and 14-4 in MPSF play, while the Waves fell to 15-7 on the year and 11-7 in conference action. UCLA posted a .427 hitting percentage while Pepperdine registered a .385 hitting attack.
Against Pepperdine, J.T. Wenger, Paul Johnson and Chris Pena each tallied 13 kills for UCLA. Wenger registered a double-double as he also recorded 10 digs. Freshman Steve Klosterman added 11 kills an ace and a solo block. Senior libero Adam Shrader led both teams with 11 digs, and sophomore setter Dennis Gonzalez contributed 50 assists.
UCLA also defeated No.15 USC in four games Tuesday night at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins won 3-1 in two hours in front of 702 fans. Against USC, five UCLA players recorded double-digit kills led by freshman opposite Steve Klosterman's 16 kills and 20.5 points. Junior Paul Johnson was next with 15 kills, followed by 14 from senior Chris Pena and 12 from Kris Kraushaar.
The Cougars play their last regular-season home match on Apr. 15 and 17 against No. 15 USC. KBYU will broadcast the match on Apr. 15, also available on BYU-TV nationally. Saturday, Apr. 17 will be Senior Night to honor the seven seniors on the squad. Both matches start at 7 p.m. (MST) in the Smith Fieldhouse.