Yamil Perez leads the MPSF and ranks third nationally in assists. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- Nos. 3 and 4 will face off this weekend when third-ranked BYU heads to Santa Barbara to take on fourth-ranked UC Santa Barbara in a pair of crucial Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches Friday and Saturday evenings.
The Cougars (13-4, 9-3 MPSF), who are also third in the MPSF standings, will look to distance themselves from the fourth-placed Gauchos (14-6, 10-5) as the regular season winds down and the battle for MPSF tournament seedings begin to intensify.
"Santa Barbara is a very difficult place to play," co-head coach Ryan Millar said. "They have a rowdy crowd and a great team."
BYU will look to keep its current four-match winning streak going. UCSB won two in a row last week against non-conference foe IPFW. The Gauchos have dropped three straight MPSF matches. Both BYU and UCSB will be trying to gain ground on No. 1 Pepperdine and No. 2 UC Irvine. Both teams hold two-game leads on the Cougars.
"These matches are very important for seeding in the MPSF tournament," Millar said. "It will definitely be a battle."
BYU is coming off a week in which it swept the major weekly player awards. The Cougars' Yosleyder Cala brought home the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week award while Robby Stowell was recognized as the Molten/MPSF Player of the Week. Both hit over .500 and averaged around five kills per game against USC last week.
The Gauchos are led by star opposite Evan Patak. Patak is fourth in the nation in kills per game (5.77) and leads the nation in service aces with 85. His 85 aces more than double the nearest competitor in the category.
"UCSB has one of the most dominant players in the nation in Patak," Millar said. "We are focusing on getting better. We have had a nice couple of weeks of practice and have played well in our last four matches."
Both matches will start at 7 p.m. (PST) and will have no live stats, audio or video coverage.