Semifinal Action in Provo; Cougars Take On Waves

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- With last week's sweep over UC Irvine, the No. 1-ranked BYU men's volleyball team (25-4 overall, 20-2 MPSF) advance to the MPSF semifinals for the sixth time in the school's history, hosting fourth-ranked Pepperdine on Apr. 29 in the Smith Fieldhouse. The match is set for 7 p.m. (MST)

"This should be a great match," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "Pepperdine is a good team with tough players. We'll have to contain their hitters as much as possible. They are a hard matchup for any team. We'll have to pass consistently so our offense won't get out of system."

Pepperdine (19-8 overall, 14-8 MPSF) advanced to the second round after defeating CS Northridge on Saturday. All-Americans Fred Winters and Sean Rooney led the Waves with 18 kills and 15 kills, respectively. This will mark the third-straight year the two teams have met in the MPSF playoffs, with the Waves advancing in the 2002 first round and the Cougars grabbing a 3-2 victory last season in the championships at Firestone Fieldhouse.

As the top remaining seed in the tournament, the Cougars will play at 7 p.m. (MST), while No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Long Beach State will face off at 9 p.m. (MST) in the second semi-final match.

At the beginning of the season, Pepperdine and BYU faced off in a preseason tournament, where the Waves dominated in both matches. The Cougars rebounded from the losses, overcoming Pepperdine in two, four-game wins at home on Mar. 12-13. The wins over the Waves extended BYU's win streak to 14 matches.

Sophomore Victor Batista gave the Cougars a huge lift in the first match with a blistering .783 percentage, connecting on 18 kills and committing no errors against the Waves. Batista tied his career-best in kills and set a new career-high in hitting percentage. In the second match, both Joe Hillman and Fernando Pessoa posted career highs with 26 and 24 kills, respectively. Setter Carlos Moreno tallied a season high 77 assists in leading the Cougars to a second-straight victory over fifth-ranked Pepperdine.

The match on Thursday will be the 34th meeting between the two teams, with Pepperdine holding a 14-19 overall record over BYU. The Cougars swept the Waves in two matches at home in conference action this year, while Pepperdine swept BYU in a preseason tournament in Malibu. At home, BYU holds a 9-6 record over Pepperdine.

Last week against UC Irvine -- after an hour and 22 minutes -- the No. 1-ranked BYU team used a balanced offense to sprint past eighth-seeded UC Irvine in the first round of the MPSF Tournament at the Smith Fieldhouse. The game scores for the match were 30-24, 30-23, 30-21.

BYU continues to sit atop the conference for the ninth-straight week and rank No.1 in the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the eighth-straight week. BYU has advanced to the post season in the last eight-straight years for a total of ten appearances in the MPSF tournament since the program began in 1990.

The winner of the semi-final match between BYU and Pepperdine will play the winner of the UCLA-Long Beach State match on Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Championship match will be broadcast on College Sport Television (CSTV), which is available on DirecTV.

BYU's match on Thursday can be heard through a live audio broadcast found on the men's volleyball schedule.

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