Ivan Perez and the No. 2 Cougars will play two matches against No. 13 USC this weekend. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
COUGARS TO BATTLE TROJANS
After splitting at home with Pepperdine, the No. 1 team in the country, the Cougars will play No. 13 USC in the Smith Fieldhouse as they look to get back on the winning track since losing two of their last three matches.
The No. 2 Cougars are 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation while USC is 7-4 overall and 4-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. BYU started 7-0 but then dropped one to UCLA before splitting with Pepperdine. The Trojans have already won as many matches as they did in 2005 and more than they won in 2002, 2003 and 2004. USC is off to its best start since 2000, when the Trojans won 10 of their first 11 matches.
"This is a much improved team," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "They have been building their program that last few years and have a very competitive team. We need to prepare very well for them and not have a let down. These are big matches for us."
Last weekend the Cougars earned a 3-1 win over Pepperdine on Friday but then were swept by the Waves on Saturday. Ivan Perez led BYU with 21 kills in the win and Yosleyder Cala had 20 kills in the loss. Perez leads BYU in kills per game at 4.73 and is hitting .353. Russell Holmes leads the Cougars in blocks at 1.50 per game and hitting percentage at .406 and Rob Neilson is setting BYU to a .337 hitting percentage.
Juan Figueroa leads USC in kills at 4.72 while Joao Grangeiro is second at 4.14. Matt Mosko is hitting at a .429 clip, best on the team, while Andrew Vernon is leading the Trojans in blocks per game at 1.23. USC is hitting .294 as a team. The Trojans are coached by Turhan Douglas, who is in his fourth year at the helm.
After back-to-back sellouts against Pepperdine, the Cougars lead the nation in attendance with an average of 4,031 fans coming out per match. BYU is ahead of Hawai`i, which is averaging 3,687 fans through five home matches.
"Our fans have been great this season," Peterson said. "We really feed off their energy. We hope they will continue to come out and make the Fieldhouse a tough place to play for our opponents."
Both matches against USC can be seen live on CougarTV. Visit www.byucougars.com for more information.
No. 2 BYU COUGARS (8-2, 6-2 MPSF) vs. No. 13 USC TROJANS (7-4, 4-2 MPSF)
Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11, 2006 - 7 p.m. MST
Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah
Coaches: BYU, Tom Peterson (at BYU: 80-23 in fourth year, career: 332-153 overall)
USC, Turhan Douglas (at USC: 26-75 in 4th year, career: same overall)
Series: BYU leads, 18-7, including last season's sweep by BYU in Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: Both matches will be live on CougarTV at 7 p.m.
Web: Live stats broadcast is available both nights at www.byucougars.com/volleyball_m/
Radio: BYU Radio, listen live at www.byuradio.org
LAST MATCHES - BYU vs. PEPPERDINE
BYU played its seventh and eighth home matches of the season last weekend when they played Pepperdine. In the first match, the Cougars lost game one 30-20 but came back to win game two 30-28 with the last two points coming on kills by Yosleyder Cala, the first two of his career. The Cougars were in control the rest of the way, winning games three and four 30-22 and 30-21. Ivan Perez had a match-high 21 kills, the sixth time this season he has had 20 or more kills. Pepperdine bounced back the next night and swept the Cougars (30-28, 30-28, 32-30). BYU had a chance to win every game but could not hold on to leads late in games. The Cougars led game two 26-19 and game three 29-26 but dropped both. Cala led BYU with 20 kills that night.
BYU maintained its No. 2 ranking in the 2006 CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll after going 1-1 against No. 1 Pepperdine. The Cougars defeated the Waves 3-1 on Friday, Feb. 3 but then fell to lost 3-0 to Pepperdine on Saturday, Feb. 4. BYU has been No. 2 in the CSTV/AVCA poll for four-consecutive weeks.
Yosleyder Cala, a 6-8 freshman from Cuba, made his BYU debut Friday, Feb. 3, against Pepperdine. He entered the match in game two and with the score tied at 28, recorded back-to-back kills to give the game to the Cougars and tie the match at 1-1. He finished the match with 10 kills and two aces and BYU went on to win 3-1. On Saturday, he had 20 kills in the Cougars' 3-0 loss to the Waves, the fourth-highest total in a three-game rally-scoring match in BYU history. He also added five digs.
CALMING THE WAVES
After Pepperdine hit .560 and .343 in games one and two of BYU's win on Friday, the Cougars shutdown the Waves offensive attack. In game three, BYU held Pepperdine to a .000 (9-9-31) hitting percentage and in game four, the Waves hit .081 (13-10-37). The only other team to hit as low in a single game against BYU was Cal State Northridge. The Matadors hit .000 (13-13-39) in game three in the Cougars' 3-1 win on Jan. 13.
NATION'S BEST FANS
BYU sold out both of its matches against Pepperdine, increasing the average attendance to 4,031 per match, the best in the nation. After two crowds of just over 2,300 the first weekend against Cal Baptist, the fans have packed the Fieldhouse. Over 4,300 fans attended each night against Cal State Northridge and over 3,500 attended each night against UC Santa Barbara. The first night against Pepperdine, 5,395 were in attendance and for the second match, 5,682 came out to support the Cougars.
Bryan Stewart, who was expected to contributed as an opposite this season, will be out the entire season with a shoulder injury. He had successful surgery on the injured shoulder and is expected to make a full recovery. Stewart injured the shoulder in the preseason. He will be able to start swinging in approximately four months and expects to be ready for the 2007 season.