Victor Batista and the BYU men's volleyball team will begin the 2006 season with two matches against Cal Baptist. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team will start the 2006 season with two matches against NAIA powerhouse Cal Baptist Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6 and 7 in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.
With five starters back from a team that finished third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in 2005, the Cougars have been picked to finish first in the league in 2006. An experienced Cal Baptist squad will be a test for BYU to start the season.
"It's a very good opportunity to play a very good team," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "They have some very experienced players so it will be a very good test for us and help us get ready for league play."
Peterson is entering his fourth season with BYU. In three years, his record is 72-21, including 20-10 in 2005. In his first season, Peterson took the Cougars to the national championship match where BYU lost to Lewis. The next year, he led the Cougars to a 29-4 record and a national championship win over Long Beach State.
Of the five returning starters, three earned All-MPSF honors, two of whom were All-Americans. Sophomore outside hitter Ivan Perez was named second-team All-MPSF and was a second team All-American while leading the Cougars in kills per game at 3.78 and hitting .331. Senior middle blocker Victor Batista was also a second-team All-MPSF honoree and a second-team All-American. He was second on the team in kills at 3.53 per game. Senior setter Rob Neilson was the third All-MPSF performer, earning honorable mention status. He was third in the nation in assists per game at 13.22.
Other returning starters include senior libero Brian Rowley and senior outside hitter Taylor Evans. Rowley led BYU in digs by tallying 1.89 per game while Evans registered 2.31 kills per game.
"We should be a little more comfortable this year with guys having more experience," Peterson said.
Two other players who will likely start include sophomore middle blocker Russell Holmes and junior opposite hitter Jonathan Charette. Holmes started 13 matches in 2005 and Charette transferred to BYU from Long Beach City College.
The Lancers are coached by Ryan McGuyre, who is entering his fourth season and has compiled a record of 72-16. He has led Cal Baptist to NAIA titles in 2004 and 2005.
BYU and Cal Baptist played twice in Provo in 2005. The Lancers won the first match 3-2 while the Cougars won the second in a sweep. BYU leads the overall series 2-1. Every match has been played in Provo. The Cougars will enter MWC play next weekend with two matches against Cal State Northridge.
BYU COUGARS (0-0, 0-0 MPSF) vs. CAL BAPTIST LANCERS (0-0)
Friday and Saturday, Jan. 6 and 7, 2006 - 7 p.m. MST
Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah
Coaches: BYU, Tom Peterson (72-21 in fourth year, 324-151 overall)
Cal Baptist, Ryan McGuyre (72-16 in fourth year, 227-105 overall)
Series: BYU leads, 2-1, including last season's split in Provo
TV: CougarTV - Visit www.byucougars.com for information
Web: Live stats broadcast is available at www.byucougars.com/volleyball_m/
BYU has started 12 of its 16 seasons since joining the NCAA with a win, good for a .750 percentage in season openers. The Cougars have opened at home five times and are 4-1 in those games. All five games came from 1998-2002 and the only loss was in 2002 against Stanford. BYU won eight-consecutive season openers from 1994-2001.
LAST MATCH - BYU vs. UC SANTA BARBARA
BYU concluded the 2005 season with a loss to UC Santa Barbara in Provo in the quarterfinals of MPSF tournament. The Cougars fell behind two games to none and trailed throughout the third only to fight back and win 31-29. BYU trailed again in the fourth at 22-20 but went on a 10-1 run to win and force game five. The Cougars found themselves in the whole once again, this times at 13-11, but fought back to tie the score at 13. The Gauchos took the next two points, however, and won the match. Ivan Perez led the team with 24 kills.
MPSF PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
BYU was picked to finish first in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation for the 2006 season in the first-ever MPSF Preseason Men's Volleyball Coaches' Poll. The Cougars finished third in the MPSF at 15-7 last season and was 20-10 overall and ranked No. 8 in the final USA Today/CSTV Coaches' poll.
"It's a great honor to think other coaches think so highly of our program," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "Obviously it's a good challenge for us to live up to those expectations. Of course the idea is to be in that same spot at the end of the season."
Since 1993, BYU has had at least one player named an All-American. In all, 20 different players have earned 35 citations, 13 of which are first-team and 11 of which are second-team honors. In 2005, two Cougars earned AVCA All-America honors as both Mike Burke and Ivan Perez were named to the second team. Asics/Volleyball Magazine named three players All-Americans as Burke was a first-team honoree and Perez and Victor Batista were second-team performers.
After finishing the 2005 season at 20-10, the Cougars claimed their eighth 20-win season in their 16-year history. It was also BYU's fifth consecutive 20-win season, dating back to the 2001 season. The first 20-win season was in 1994 when the Cougars finished with a 21-6 record and advanced to the final of the MPSF Tournament, losing to Stanford in four games.
THE LAST SEVEN YEARS
Since 1997, the Cougars are the top team in the nation with a record of 202-54 (.789), 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 at the Smith Fieldhouse. Since 1997, the Cougars are 120-17 (.876), including an undefeated home record in 1998 (11-0) and one-loss home seasons in 1999 and 2004 (15-1 and 16-1). Since 1997, the Cougars have finished first in the MSPF three times, second once, third four times and fourth once. BYU's lowest final national ranking since 1997 is eighth (2005), while the Cougars have finished in the top-three five times, including three first-place finishes.