PROVO -- The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title will be decided this weekend as third-ranked BYU travels to top-ranked Pepperdine in a season finale for both teams this Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, in Malibu.
With Pepperdine leading the MPSF with an 18-2 record, BYU is trailing by two matches at 16-4 and will need a sweep this weekend to tie the Waves for the conference title. If the teams tie, the Cougars will earn the top seed and the privilege of hosting the semifinal and final rounds of the MPSF tournament if they win in their first-round match.
"I can't tell you what the outcome will be," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "We can win, but we're playing a great team at their place. To win we will have to be very, very consistent. Hopefully we will play like how we did in that second match against Long Beach."
Two weeks ago the Cougars played the best they have played all season in two matches against then fourth-ranked Long Beach State. As a team they recorded a season-high .494 attack percent and out-blocked Long Beach 13.0 to 5.0 as they swept the 49ers 3-0 in Provo on March 29. Now after a week off, BYU faces its two toughest matches of the season, both physically and emotionally.
Last year, Pepperdine swept BYU in two regular season matches in Provo and then handed the Cougars a 1-3 loss in the semifinal round of the MPSF tournament, a loss that excluded BYU from earning a trip to the NCAA tournament. The Waves went on to win the MPSF tournament but eventually lost to Hawaii in the NCAA championship.
"We don't want to put 'live or die' on these matches," Peterson said. "We also can't get emotionally down if we don't win a match, since it's at their place. We are a good team and they are a good team, so we need to take care of business and play hard."
To their credit, the Waves hold a 16-10 series record over the Cougars and have won the last three matches. Statistically, Pepperdine has the edge over BYU in every category this season, but BYU is not far behind. Each team has defeated every opponent it has faced this season at least once and has recorded losses to two of the same teams: second-ranked Hawaii and fourth-ranked Pacific. The Waves are also currently enjoying a ten-match win streak at home in the Firestone Fieldhouse.
There's a lot on the line this weekend, and these two matches on April 11 and 12 will determine the MPSF conference title, hosting privileges for the tournament, and possibly who will earn a berth to the national tournament.
Both matches will played at 7 p.m. (PST) in the Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu. Live audio for both matches can be accessed online through the men's volleyball schedule page at www.byucougars.com.