Russell Holmes, Rob Neilson and the rest of Cougars will play two matches against No. 2 UC Irvine. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
NO. 1 COUGARS TO FACE NO. 2 ANTEATERS
Battling for the top spot in the country and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the No. 1 ranked Cougars will take on No. 2 UC Irvine, Friday and Saturday, March 10th and 11th in Irvine, California. BYU is 14-2 overall and first place in the MPSF at 12-2 while the Anteaters are 15-3 overall and 10-2 in the MPSF.
"Whoever wins these matches will have the upper hand in the conference race," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "We are the two teams that can control our own destiny. Finishing first in the MPSF would give us home court advantage in the playoffs and that would be a huge advantage. It's been a while since we've played someone this good on the road at sea level. It will be a big test."
The matches between UC Irvine and BYU will be the 34th and 35th meetings in the series. The Cougars lead 28-5 overall and 13-3 at UC Irvine. The last time BYU lost to the Anteaters was in 2000 when UC Irvine took the second of two meetings between the teams. Last season, BYU pulled out two wins at home against the Anteaters (3-1 and 3-0) and will look to do the same this weekend.
"They (the Anteaters) are great because they are very consistent and they have a lot of confidence," Peterson said. "They have a balanced attack and all of their positions are pretty solid."
Leading UC Irvine is 6-5 outside hitter, Jayson Jablonsky, who averages 4.40 kills per game and 0.72 blocks per game. Matt Webber is second on the team in kills at 4.39 per game and adds 0.89 blocks per game.
UC Irvine's last outing was a sweep of UCLA (31-29, 30-27, 30-25). Weber had 17 kills on the night, followed by Jablonsky with 13.
The Anteaters' overall hitting percentage is .321 while the Cougars are hitting .359, first in the nation. Overall averages for UC Irvine include 2.98 blocks per game while BYU records an average of 2.88 blocks per game.
Last week BYU earned back-to-back sweeps of Stanford, March 3 and 4. Sophomore Russell Holmes led the Cougars with 23 kills and a .700 hitting percentage for the two nights. Freshman Yosleyder Cala led the team with a total of 25 kills while hitting .697.
Friday's match will be played at the Bren Center, capacity 4,984, and Saturday's match will be held at Crawford Court, capacity 760.
NO. 1 BYU COUGARS (14-2, 12-2 MPSF) vs. NO. 2 UC IRVINE ANTEATERS (15-3, 10-2 MPSF)
Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11, 2006 yyyyyyÃ½ 7 p.m. MST
Crawford Court (760) yyyyyyÃ½ Irvine, Calif.
Coaches: BYU, Tom Peterson (at BYU: 86-23 in fourth year, career: 338-153)
UC Irvine, John Speraw (at UC Irvine: 58-52 in fourth year, career: same)
Series: BYU leads, 28-5, including last season's sweep by BYU in Provo, Utah
LAST MATCHES - BYU vs. STANFORD
The Cougars improved to 14-2 overall and 12-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with two sweeps over Stanford March 3 and 4. In the first match, BYU was dominant throughout, winning 30-16, 30-23, 30-23. In game one, the Cougars hit .800 (20-0-25), a school record for highest percentage in a game with more than 20 kill attempts. Yosleyder Cala led BYU with 12 kills in just two games and hit a career-high .857. Russell Holmes and Ivan Perez added 10 kills each and Victor Batista hit .889 and had eight kills. In the second match, the Cougars dominated game one, 30-15, hitting .762 (17-1-21). Games two and three were close but Holmes pounded out the last two points to win each game (33-31, 32-30). Holmes had 13 kills and hit .800 while Cala had 13 kills and hit .579.
BYU maintained its No. 1 ranking in the CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll for the fourth-consecutive week. The Cougars reached the top spot after earning back-to-back home wins over USC, Feb. 10 and 11. BYU received all 16 first-place votes in the CSTV/AVCA poll for the second-consecutive week. The Cougars have been No. 1 in the Molten/Volleyball Poll since Feb. 13.
EXTREME VOLLEYBALL: HOLMES EDITION
Russell Holmes had one of the best hitting weekends of his career when BYU played Stanford, March 3 and 4. In the first match, he had 10 kills and four blocks and hit .600. In the second match, he hit .800 (13-1-15) and added three blocks. For the weekend, he hit .700 (23-2-30) and came through in the clutch, recording the final two points in games two and three on Saturday. In BYU's last seven matches, Holmes is hitting .588 and averaging 2.92 kills per game and 1.33 blocks.
OFF THE CHARTS
The BYU offensive attack was unstoppable against Stanford, March 3 and 4. In game one on Friday, the Cougars tied a school record for highest hitting percentage in a single game by hitting .800 (20-0-25). In 2004, BYU hit .800 against UC San Diego (17-1-20). The Cougars finished the match hitting .537 (55-11-82). Yosleyder Cala set a personal best by hitting .857 (12-0-14) and Victor Batista hit .889 (8-0-9). On Saturday, the Cougars started out hot again, hitting .762 (17-1-21) and finished the match at .537 (54-10-82). Russell Holmes hit .800 (13-1-15) for the match. BYU now leads the nation in hitting percentage at .359. The Cougars' team hitting percentage increased from .341 to .359 following the two matches.
CALA-BRATE GOOD TIMES
Yosleyder Cala has become one of the most dominant offensive weapons in the country. Cala has played in eight matches and is hitting .497 and averaging 4.00 kills per game as an outside hitter. While he has not played in enough games to qualify for the NCAA statistical leaders, he would rank third in the nation and first among outside hitters in hitting percentage. Cala has been especially dominant in the last five matches, hitting .634 and averaging 4.64 kills per game and 1.50 digs.
A LOOK AT UC IRVINE
UC Irvine is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation and is 16-3 overall and 10-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Anteaters trail BYU by two wins in conference play and are even with the Cougars in the loss column. UC Irvine is on a 10-match win streak that includes seven MPSF wins. The Anteaters have defeated UCLA and Long Beach State on the road during the streak. In conference play, UC Irvine has lost to Pepperdine and Hawai`i. The Anteaters split with Hawai`i on the road. Jayson Jablonsky and Matt Webber lead UC Irvine in kills at 4.40 and 4.39, respectively, while Aaron Harrell leads in blocks at 1.34 per game and Brent Asuka leads in digs at 3.32 per game.
LAST YEAR VS. UC IRVINE
The Cougars defeated UC Irvine twiceat home in 2005 with the first match going to four games and the second going to three. In the first match, Ivan Perez led BYU with 14 kills and eight digs while Michael Burke added 13 kills and seven blocks. Victor Batista and Taylor Evans registered 12 and 10 kills, respectively. The Cougars limited the Anteaters to .175 hitting. In the second match, Burke had 10 kills and hit .769. Other BYU players with double-digit kills were Perez (13), Evans (12) and Casey Patterson (10). Rob Neilson dished out 46 assists and set the Cougars to a .436 hitting percentage. He also had a match-high seven digs.
The Cougars and Anteaters will meet for the 34th and 35th times in the history of the series when they square off Friday and Saturday in Irvine, Calif. BYU has won the last 11 meetings and 28 of the last 29. The Cougars are 7-0 versus Irvine under Tom Peterson. In Irvine, the Cougars are 13-3 versus the Anteaters and have won the last four meetings at Crawford Court.