Rob Neilson and the No. 2 Cougars will take on top-ranked Pepperdine this weekend at the Fieldhouse. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
BYU vs. PEPPERDINE: BATTLE OF TOP-RANKED TEAMS
Coming off its first road trip of the season, BYU will return to Provo to play Pepperdine in a battle of the top teams in the country as the Cougars are ranked No. 2 and Pepperdine is ranked No. 1. The teams will play Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The No. 2 Cougars are 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation while Pepperdine is 5-0 overall and 5-0 in the MPSF. Pepperdine is first in the MPSF while BYU is second. The Waves handed previously ranked No. 1 Long Beach State its first loss on Thursday Jan. 28 to move into the top spot.
"These matches are the most important of the season to date and they could end up determining if we have a chance at hosting the MPSF Tournament," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "We have to win these matches to have a chance at hosting the MPSF playoffs. Pepperdine has already defeated Long Beach and I don't expect them to lose many more matches."
The MPSF regular-season champion earns the right to host the postseason tournament. The tournament champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Final Four. Since 1999, BYU has hosted the tournament three times (1999, 2001 and 2004) and Pepperdine has hosted four times (2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005). The Cougars won the tournament in 1999, 2003 and 2004 while the Waves won in 2002 and 2005.
Last weekend, BYU split with UCLA in Los Angeles. The Cougars lost game one of the first match but then put on a dominant offensive display to take the next three. The second match went five games as BYU took a 2-1 lead but then yielded games four and five to the Bruins. Ivan Perez led the Cougars in kills both nights with 21 and 20 kills. Perez leads the team in kills per game at 4.74.
Pepperdine has four players averaging over 3.50 kills per game, led by Jon Grobe at 3.84. Andy Hein averages 3.60 and is hitting .534.
BYU outside hitter Yosleyder Cala will suit up for the first time this season. The Cuban native was recently cleared by the NCAA to compete. He brings valuable experience to the Coguars, having played several years for the Cuban National Team.
"He's such a great talent and will be an impact player," Peterson said. "He'll be an exciting player to watch."
Friday's match can be seen live on BYUTV. Check your local satellite and cable provider for availability. Watch the match online at www.byutv.org. Both matches can be seen live on CougarTV. Visit www.byucougars.com for more information.
No. 2 BYU COUGARS (7-1, 5-1 MPSF) vs. No. 1 PEPPERDINE WAVES (5-0, 5-0 MPSF)
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3 and 4, 2006 - 7 p.m. MST
Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah
BYU, Tom Peterson (at BYU: 79-22 in fourth year, career: 331-152 overall)
Pepperdine, Marv Dunphy (at Pepp: 414-162 in 23rd year, career: same overall)
Series: Pepperdine leads, 21-15, including last season's sweep by Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.
TV: Friday: live on BYUTV and CougarTV at 7 p.m.
Saturday: live on CougarTV at 7 p.m.
Web: Live stats broadcast is available both nights at www.byucougars.com/volleyball_m/
LAST MATCHES - BYU at UCLA
BYU went to Los Angeles for its first road matches of the season and split with UCLA, suffering its first loss of the season, Saturday Jan. 28. In the first match, the Cougars earned a 3-1 victory over the Bruins. BYU started slow, losing game one 30-24 while hitting just .259. From there, the Cougars caught fire, hitting .452 in game two to even the match at 1-1. In game three, BYU hit .636 and won 30-14 to go up two games to one. The Cougars continued their hot hitting in game four, hitting .483 in the match-clinching 30-24 win. Ivan Perez hit .500 and had a match-high 21 kills. On Saturday, BYU won game one 30-26 but dropped game two 22-30 while hitting just .032, their lowest percentage for a single game this season. The Cougars bounced back in game three, hitting .429 and winning 30-25. They continued to hit well in game four, registering a .522 hitting percentage but lost 30-26. Game five was close throughout but UCLA made more plays and won 19-17. Perez led the Cougars with 20 kills.
BYU maintained its No. 2 ranking in the 2006 CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll despite suffering its first loss of the season. The Cougars defeated UCLA 3-1 on Thursday, Jan. 26 but then fell to the Bruins in five games on Saturday, Jan. 28. BYU has been No. 2 in the CSTV/AVCA poll for three-consecutive weeks. The Cougars fell to No. 2 in the Volleyball Magazine Poll. BYU had been No. 1 in the first three polls.
CALA CLEARED TO PLAY
BYU announced today the NCAA has completed its eligibility review of volleyball player Yosleyder Cala. Cala was certified a qualifier by the NCAA Clearinghouse and enrolled at BYU in January 2006 for winter semester. He has not competed for the men's volleyball team as the institution determined he was involved in secondary violations of NCAA rules, and requested his reinstatement.
Following a thorough review of the information submitted to the NCAA, Cala's eligibility was reinstated under the condition he sit out 30 percent of the regular season. Cala has been cleared to begin competing for the Cougars on Friday, Feb. 3 vs. Pepperdine. Cala is a 6-8, outside hitter, from Ciego Avila, Cuba. Cala played for the Cuban Junior National Team from 1998-2001 and later joined the national team, where he competed from 2001-04.
The Cougars had their second game of the season in which they hit over .600 in their win over UCLA, Friday Jan. 26. After dropping game one to the Bruins and then winning game two, BYU dominated game three, hitting .636 (15-1-22) and winning 30-14. The Cougars' other game in which they hit over .600 was game one against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 20. BYU started that game 14-for-15 without any errors and finished at .682 (17-2-22). Ivan Perez was a perfect 6-for-6 that game.
Last season, BYU set a school record by serving 174 aces. While the Cougars are not on pace to match that total in 2006, they had their best service match of the season on Thursday, Jan. 26 against UCLA. In that match, BYU had nine aces, led by Victor Batisa's career high of four and Taylor Evans' three. Rodrigo Gomes came off the bench to serve his first-career ace and Jonathan Charette added another.
COUGARS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS
Following is a list of where several Cougars and the BYU team rank in
the top-20 in various statistical categories.
Player Statistic Rank
Victor Batista Hitting Pct. (.430) 11
Blocking (1.35) 17
Russell Holmes Hitting Pct. (.407) 19
Blocking (1.61) 7
Ivan Perez Kills (4.74) 3
Points (5.23) 6
Rob Neilson Assists (13.68) 5
Team Hitting Pct. (.349) 4