All-MPSF selection Fernando Pessoa joins the Cougar squad as a returning starter his senior year and will be a major contributor for BYU. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- With four starters and 10 players returning from last year's squad, the BYU men's volleyball team opens the 2004 season with a pair of non-conference matches Jan. 9-10 against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.
"We have a chance to be a very good team if we can have great ball control and passing," head coach Tom Peterson said. "Pepperdine is a team where what you see is what you get, and they are one of the tallest teams in the country."
In Coach Peterson's first season with the Cougars in 2003, the team finished with a 23-7 overall record and 17-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. BYU also ended the season as the NCAA Runner-Up to champion Lewis University. This year's team returns All-Americans Carlos Moreno and Jon Alleman and a handful of athletes competing for starting positions.
The match-up this weekend will give both teams a chance to play tough competition before the conference starts. The Cougars led the series 2-1 against Pepperdine last season and came from behind to beat the Waves 3-2 in the final MPSF Tournament match.
In pre-season matches, the Cougars joined three top NCAA teams including Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine to compete against four top Canadian teams in the seventh annual Can-Am Challenge.
Pepperdine captured the 'Best American Team' award after posting a perfect 4-0 record over Canadian universities, and BYU helped the USA win the crown with a 2-2 record.
The Cougars are having to shuffle the roster due to injuries in the middle blocker position, but the coaching staff has been able to choose from a group of talented athletes.
"The best teams bring the best combinations of players and it hurts when you have players injured," Peterson said.
BYU opens its conference play against Cal State Northridge next weekend, Jan. 16-17, at the Smith Fieldhouse. Friday's match will begin at 7 p.m. and Saturday's match will kick off at 8:30 p.m.