(Photo by BYU Photo/Jonathan Hardy)
No. 1 BYU Cougars (19-3, 18-2 MPSF)
No. 7 UCSB Gauchos (14-12, 10-10 MPSF)
No. 3 UCLA Bruins (17-9, 13-7 MPSF)
PROVO, Utah – Holding the No. 1 national ranking for the fifth-straight week, the BYU men’s volleyball team heads to California for matches against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara Friday and No. 3 UCLA Saturday at 7 p.m. PDT both nights.
BYU’s five weeks atop the AVCA national poll are the most consecutive weeks at No. 1 since 2008 when the Cougars held the top spot for seven weeks (Jan. 8 – Feb. 19).
The win against USC last weekend secured the No. 1 MPSF tournament seed for BYU. The Cougars will have home-court advantage throughout the tournament. The March 30 clincher is the earliest the No. 1 seed has ever been penciled in during the rally-scoring era.
The Cougars are riding an 11-match win streak, dating back to Feb. 16. The run ties for the fifth-longest at BYU, last accomplished in 2010. BYU finished March with an 8-0 record for only the second time in history. The Cougars dropped just four sets during the month.
The team recorded a season-best .545 hitting percentage against then-No. 4 Pepperdine last weekend, the third-best attack during the rally-scoring era. Junior outside hitter Taylor Sander contributed to the accomplishment with a career-high .762 clip.
Freshman middle blocker Michael Hatch remains No. 1 in blocks in the MPSF with 1.46 per set. Senior setter Ryan Boyce is fourth in assists in the conference with a 10.68 average while Sander is fifth in points per set with 4.72.
As a team, the Cougars lead the MPSF in hitting percentage (.339), opponent hitting percentage (.233) and blocks (2.96).
UCSB evened up its conference record with a pair of wins at Hawai’i last week, also extending its win streak to seven matches. In the first match, Evan Licht had a double-double of 12 kills and 11 digs, while Austin Kingi served four aces. Licht added 18 kills at .433 on night two.
Chad Kingi is third in digs in the MPSF with a 2.52 average. Dylan Davis has the fourth-best hitting percentage with a .467 average and Jonah Seif is fifth in assists with 10.46 per set.
UCSB is second in opponent hitting percentage in conference, holding teams to a .241 clip.
BYU leads the overall series with UCSB 29-21 and came away with a 3-2 win in Provo Feb. 7.
UCSB travels to Cal Baptist Wednesday before hosting BYU.
Junior outside hitter Gonzalo Quiroga is this week’s MPSF player of the week after hitting a combined .508 (34-4-59) over wins at UC San Diego and at then-No. 2 UC Irvine. His .667 attack in La Jolla, Calif., was a season high, while his 21 kills in Irvine, Calif., was his fifth 20-plus kill match of the year. Quioga averaged 5.29 points, 4.86 kills and 1.00 digs per set through the road trip.
Quiroga is second in service aces in the MPSF with .460 per set. Evan Mottram has the fourth-best digs average in conference with 2.29.
UCLA holds the No. 1 service aces average in the MPSF with 1.45 and has the second-best hitting percentage with .319 per set.
The Cougars captured the previous meeting with the Bruins, 3-0, Feb. 9 in Provo. UCLA owns the series record 29-24.
The Bruins host Cal Baptist Thursday before a Saturday matchup with the Cougars.
BYU’s match against UCSB will have live stats as well as audio. Video feed and live stats are available for the match against UCLA. You can also follow the team on Twitter @BYUvolleyball.