Stated as the "best server in the nation" by legendary UCLA coach Al Scates, Carlos Moreno and the top-ranked Cougars will make a run for their third NCAA title, beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. (PDT).
COUGARS EARN No. 1 SEED
After trailing Pepperdine, 0-2, in Saturday's MPSF Championship match, the third-ranked BYU men's volleyball team rallied to win three straight games and knock off the No. 1 Waves to capture the league's automatic bid to the NCAA National Championships in Long Beach, Calif. By virtue of winning the MPSF Tournament, the Cougars (22-6) will enter this week's competition as the No. 1 seed, and will face No. 4 Penn State (26-5) on Thursday, May 1. Match time is slated for 8:00 p.m. (PDT) at the Pyramid--the site of BYU's last National Championship run in 2001.The winner of Thursday's match will play for the National Championship on Saturday, May 3, beginning at 4 p.m. (PDT).
TWO OUT OF THREE 'AINT BAD
The Cougars will enter this week's NCAA National Championship tournament as the top-seeded team for the second time in their three appearances. In 1999, BYU posted a 28-1 record entering the tournament to garner top-seed honors. In 2001, the Cougars suffered a semi-final loss in the MPSF Tournament, and was selected as the at-large team for the Final Four.
Fans wishing to follow the Cougars to the Final Four may purchase tickets by contacting the Long Beach State ticket office at 562-985-4949. The LBSU ticket office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PDT). All-session tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for youth (17 and under) and students. Single-session tickets (if available) will go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. (PDT) on Thursday, May 1 for $15 and $12.
TELEVISION BROADCAST INFORMATION
Thursday's match will be broadcast (tape delayed) on ESPN 2, beginning at 8 a.m. (PDT) on Friday, May 2. The championship match will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
COUGARS AT A GLANCE
The Cougars have earned a 22-6 overall record on the season, including key victories over Hawai'i and Pepperdine in the MPSF Tournament. BYU's 17-5 MPSF record eared it the second spot in the final conference rankings behind Pepperdine. The Cougars' .346 percentage ranks sixth-bestin the nation and third in the MPSF. As a team, The Cougars finished among the top-five in the MPSF in aces and blocking. Two Cougars, Rafael Paal and Jonathan Alleman, have earned National Player-of-the-Week honors this season. Alleman is among the top-20 nationally, averaging 3.93 kills per game, while Paal has the highest service ace mark in the MPSF, averaging .41 per contest. Sophomore middle blocker Michael Burke is ranked third in the league for individual hitting percentage, average .458 per game, and adds a team-leading 1.34 blocks per contest. Middle blocker Chris Gorny and setter Carlos Moreno are among the national and conferece leaders in blocks and assists, respectively.
BYU IN THE FINAL FOUR
The Cougars enter this week's NCAA Championship tournament with a perfect, 4-0, record in Final Four action. BYU won the 1999 NCAA tournament, defeating Long Beach State, 3-0, at UCLA's Pauley Pavillion. The Cougars advanced to the championship match by knocking off Penn State, 3-1. In 2001, the Cougars returned to the Final Four, this time as an at-large selection. In semi-final action, BYU upended Penn State again, 3-1, to advance to the championship match. Once again, the Cougars were crowned National Champions after blanking top-ranked UCLA, 3-0, at the Pyramid in Long Beach.
BYU FINAL FOUR HISTORY
May 6, 1999 BYU def. Penn State, 3-1 10-15, 15-4, 15-11, 15-5
May 8, 1999 BYU def. Long Beach State, 3-0 15-9, 15-7, 15-10
May 3, 2001 BYU def. Penn State, 3-1 30-28, 28-30, 30-28, 30-26
May 5, 2003 BYU def. UCLA, 3-0 30-26, 30-26, 32-30
FINAL FOUR FACTS
Â• The Cougars beat Long Beach State (1999) to win the National
Championship on the home court of the UCLA Bruins. Two years later,
BYU beat UCLA on the home court of the Long Beach State 49'ers to win
the National Championship.
Â• The Cougars are a perfect 4-0 in Final Four action, posting a 12-2 single-
Â• Penn State is the only team to win a game against BYU in Final Four
action. The Cougars have defeated the Nittany Lions, 3-1, in both match-
ups in NCAA semi-final round action.
Â• Since 1999, the Cougars have made three appearances to the Final Four,
and have won more NCAA Championships in that span than any other
ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR
In 1999: BYU swept Hawaii and Pacific then beat USC, 3-1, for the MPSF tournament championship and automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. in their first-ever appearance at the Final Four, the Cougars played Penn State on May 6 in the first round of the national tournament and won, 3-1. The Cougars then met Long Beach State--the only team to defeat BYU during the regular season--in the finals for a 3-0 win and their first-ever national title.
In 2001: After losing to Hawaii in MPSF Tournament semi-final action, the Cougars' fate was up to the selection committee. A 21-4 record was good enough for the committee and an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. BYU again faced Penn State in the first round of the Final Four and again beat the Nittany Lions, 3-1. The Championship featured BYU and top-ranked UCLA. The Cougars weren't deterred, however, and pulled off another, 3-0, victory to win their second national title in just three years.
In 2003: Entering the semi-finals of the MPSF tournament, the Cougars faced a difficult challenge. In order to hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, they would need to beat Hawaii--the second-ranked team in the nation. After a 3-0 thumping, mission accomplished. For the automatic bid, BYU would then need to beat No. 1 Pepperdine. After falling behind, 2-0, things didn't look so good for the Cougars. However, a stellar come-from-behind effort calmed the Waves and BYU went on to a 3-2 win and received the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship tournament. For the third time in five years, BYU will face Penn State in the first round of the tournament. BYU's first-year head coach Tom Peterson coached the Nittany Lions to their first and only National Championship in 1994. Interestingly, 1994 was Peterson's last year coaching NCAA men's volleyball before returning to BYU this season. Peterson now faces his ex-assistant in Mark Pavlik, now head coach at Penn State. If BYU wins this year, it will be akin to back-to-back championships for Peterson in men's NCAA competition, just nine years apart.
A FAMILIAR PLACE
Five current BYU players were part of the 2001 NCAA National Championship team, including Fernando Pessoa, Jonathan Alleman, Luka Slabe, Jaime Mayol and Shawn Olmstead. Pessoa is the only starter from 2001 remaining on this year's team, while Slabe, Mayol and Alleman played key rolls of the bench.
THE PENN STATE SERIES
ThursdayÂ‚s first-round match marks the third time BYU and Penn State have competed against each other in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. BYU won the previous two NCAA Tournament matches, 3-1, and went on to win the Championship. This season, the two teams split a pair of matches in Provo. On March 7, Michael Burke recorded a season-high nine blocks and three different Cougars registered double-digit kills to come back from a first-game loss and win the match, 3-1. On March 8, four Cougars tallied double-digit kills, and as a team out-blocked Penn State, 13.5 to 10.0, but five Nittany Lions hit in double figures, including Norman Keil who hit 15 kills with a .737 attack percent to outlast the Cougars for a 3-2 win in the second match. In their competitive history, Penn State leads the series 5-3.
THE LEWIS SERIES
Should Lewis and BYU advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the two teams would meet for the sixth time. The Cougars own a 5-0 record in the series that dates back to 1997. All five games have been won in Provo.
THE PEPPERDINE SERIES
In one of the Cougars' biggest rivalries, BYU and Pepperdine have battled 29 times since their first meeting in 1990. The Waves own a 12-17 record, however the Cougars have won 6 of the past 11 meetings. Pepperdine welcomed BYU to the collegiate ranks back in 1990 with a dominating, 3-0, victory. The Waves went on to win six straight matches over the Cougars. Finally, in 1993, BYU recorded its first win over Pepperdine, 3-2 in Provo. Interestingly, since the 1993 match, the Cougars have produced a 12-11 record over the Waves, including two come-from-behind victories this season.
BYU IN THE USAToday/AVCA COACHES POLL
After spending 11 weeks at No. 3 in the USAToday/AVCA Coaches Poll, the Cougars moved up to No. 1 in this week's poll after knocking off top-ranked Pepperdine, and second-ranked Hawaii in the semi-finals of the MPSF Tournament. The Cougars spent three weeks at No. 4 and one week at No. 5.