Brian Rowley and the No. 4 Cougars will play two matches against No. 5 Cal State Northridge. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The No. 4 Cougars will begin their quest for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title this weekend when they take on No. 5 Cal State Northridge Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
"Northridge could be one of the top teams in the league," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "They have a very good team. This is a big weekend for us. We need to play well so we can get off to a good start in league play."
The Cougars are 2-0 to start the season with both wins coming last weekend against Cal Baptist in Provo. BYU won the first match 3-1 on Friday behind a 21-kill performance by sophomore All-American Ivan Perez. On Saturday, the Cougars swept the Lancers thanks to a .457 (51-9-92) hitting percentage, including .607 (18-1-28) in game one. Taylor Evans led the charge, hitting a career-best .636 and registering 15 kills.
Perez leads the team in kills per game at 4.71 while Evans is second at 4.14. Batista is first in hitting percentage at .486 and Evans is not far behind at .471. Rob Neilson is averaging 13.57 assists per game while directing the offense and has distributed the ball well as all five hitters average at least 2.00 kills per game.
"We played well at times against Cal Baptist," Peterson said. "We need to be consistent and have everyone hit well to continue to be successful."
The Matadors played in the UCSB/Elephant Bar Tournament and won their first match 3-0 over Pacific. Northridge lost its second game 3-2 to Long Beach State, currently ranked No. 1 in the country. The Matadors concluded the tournament with a 3-0 win over UC Santa Barbara to claim third place.
Opposite hitter Dan Rhodes established himself as a go-to player by averaging 4.75 kills per game during the tournament. James Lischer and Brian Waite played well in the middle, averaging 3.18 and 4.00 kills per game while hitting .492 and .408, respectively.
This weekend's matches will be the 33rd and 34th meetings between BYU and Northridge. The Cougars hold an 18-14 advantage, including 10-7 in Provo. The teams split two matches in Northridge last season with BYU winning the first meeting 3-1 and the Matadors taking the second in a sweep.
Following this weekend's meetings with Northridge, BYU will play two more at home next weekend, taking on UC Santa Barbara, Jan. 20 and 21.
Rodrigo Gomes will be out this weekend with a sprained back. Bryan Stewart is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
No. 4 BYU COUGARS (2-0, 0-0 MPSF) vs. No. 5 CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE MATADORS (2-1, 0-0 MPSF)
Friday and Saturday, Jan. 13 and 14, 2006 - 7 p.m. MST
Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah
Coaches: BYU, Tom Peterson (74-21 in fourth year, 326-151 overall)
Cal State Northridge, Jeff Campbell (109-119 in eighth year, same overall)
Series: BYU leads, 18-14, including last season's split in Northridge, Calif.
TV: Friday: BYUTV and CougarTV
Saturday: CougarTV - Visit www.byucougars.com for information
Web: Live stats broadcast is available at www.byucougars.com/volleyball_m/
LAST MATCHES - BYU vs. CAL BAPTIST
BYU started the season with back-to-back wins over the Cal Baptist Lancers, Jan. 6 and 7 in the Smith Fieldhouse. The first match went four games (30-26, 26-30, 30-27, 30-26) and Ivan Perez led the way with 21 kills. After a slow start, Perez heated up and had 14 kills and no errors on 23 attempts in the third and fourth games. Taylor Evans was also solid, recording 14 kills and hitting .345. Victor Batista was the third Cougar in double digits with 10 kills and added a match-best seven blocks. As a team, BYU hit .306 (67-23-144).
On Saturday, the Cougar offense clicked from the very beginning. BYU hit .607 (18-1-28) on its way to a 30-22 win. The Cougars continued their strong play in the second, hitting .448 (16-3-29) and winning 30-26. BYU wrapped up the match with a 30-27 win in game three. Evans had one of the best matches of his career, hitting .636 and tallying 15 kills. Perez was second on the team with 12 kills and Batista and Russell Holmes combined to record 17 kills and hit .552 in the middle.
CSTV/AVCA DIVISION I-II MEN'S COACHES TOP 15 POLL yyÂ´ POLL #1: JAN. 9, 2006
BYU was ranked No. 4 in the initial 2006 CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll. Long Beach State was No. 1 and received the most first-place votes with seven. BYU, despite being ranked No. 4, was second with five first-place votes. The Cougars finished the 2005 season ranked No. 8 and made the biggest jump, four spots, from the final 2005 poll to this season's first poll.
Rank School (First-Place Votes)
1 Long Beach State (7) 229
2 UCLA 210
3 Pepperdine (4) 202
4 BYU (5) 196
5 Cal State Northridge 169
6 Penn State 166
7 Hawai'i 141
8 UC Santa Barbara 128
9 UC Irvine 121
10 Ohio State 111
11 Loyola-Chicago 66
12-tie Pacific 40
12-tie Southern California 40
14 Ball State 33
15 Stanford 28
Others receiving points and listed on two or more ballots: George Mason 20, IPFW 13, Lewis 6.
In the first game of Saturday's win over Cal Baptist, the Cougars hit .607 (18-1-28) and only recorded one hitting error. The last time BYU hit over .600 in a single game was March 26, 2005 against Long Beach State, when the Cougars hit .615 (18-2-26). Batista was perfect in the first game against the Lancers, getting five kills on five attempts.
Outside hitter Taylor Evans got off to a hot start in the opening weekend against Cal Baptist, averaging 4.14 kills per game and hitting .471 (29-5-51). In the first match, he had 14 kills and hit .345. He followed that by recording 15 kills in three games and hitting .636 (15-1-22), a career best.
THE OPPOSITE SIDE
Jonathan Charette demonstrated his potential in BYU's 3-0 win over Cal Baptist last Saturday. The junior lefty had six kills on 14 attempts and did not record a single error. Charette transfered from Long Beach City College where he led his team to a league title.
DIGGIN' IT UP
Along with directing BYU's offense to a .377 hitting percentage against Cal Baptist, Rob Neilson was solid on defense as well. The senior setter recorded 18 digs in seven games, good for an average of 2.57 per game. Brian Rowley was not far behind, tallying 15 digs in seven games.
THE LAST SEVEN YEARS
Since the 1997 season, the Cougars have the best record in the nation, 204-54 (.791), better than other powerhouses including UCLA, Pepperdine, Hawai`i and Long Beach State. BYU has won three national titles (1999, 2001 and 2004) during that stretch and also advanced to the title game in 2003. Part of BYU's succes is its dominance in the Smith Fieldhouse. Since 1997, the Cougars are 122-17 (.878) at home.
A LOOK AT CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Cal State Northridge started the 2006 season with a third-place finish at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational. The Matadors opened with a 3-0 (30-22, 30-25, 30-18) win over Pacific. James Lischer and Brian Waite led Northridge with a match-high 13 kills each. The Matadors then toook on Long Beach State for a chance to play in the tournament championship but lost in five games (23-30, 31-29, 30-27, 26-30, 15-8). In the third-place match, Northridge swept UC Santa Barbara (30-23, 30-24, 30-19). Dan Rhodes had a match-high 14 kills to pace the Matadors.
LAST YEAR VS. CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
BYU and Cal State Northridge played two matches at Wells Fargo Court in Northridge in 2005. The Cougars took the first match 3-1 (30-21, 25-30, 30-20, 30-28) behind a career night from Victor Batista. Batista had 19 kills on the night and hit .680. He also added four blocks and three digs. Ivan Perez added 16 kills for the Cougars.
The Matadors came back the next night and swept BYU (30-19, 30-16, 30-28). It was the first time since the start of rally scoring the Cougars were held under 20-points in two games in the same match, not including game fives. Batista and Perez led BYU with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Nils Nielson led the Matadors with 12 kills.
The Cougars and Matadors will meet for the 33rd and 34th times when they meet Jan. 13 and 14, 2006. Northridge dominated the series early on, winning the first seven matches from 1990 to 1993. BYU claimed its first win Feb. 22, 1993 in four games. The Cougars won 12-straight matches from Feb. 26, 1997 to March 21, 2003 before the Matadors won on March 22, 2003.
Overall Series Record: 18-14
BYU Record in Provo: 10-7
BYU Record in Northridge, Calif.: 8-7
BYU Record at Neurtral Sites: 0-0
BYU Record under Tom Peterson: 4-3
Longest BYU win streak: 12
Longest Northridge win streak: 7