PROVO -- The Cougars extended their winning streak to four matches and will look to add two more against the University of Pacific Tigers Friday and Saturday in Stockton, Calif. at the Spanos Center. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m. (PST).
BYU dominated the Trojans, sweeping USC both nights in Los Angeles, March 4 and 5. With the wins, the Cougars improved to 11-6 overall and 6-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and climbed from sixth to fifth in the league standings. BYU maintained its No. 6 ranking in the USA Today/CSTV Coaches Poll.
"We've improved and our practices have been better," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "We're still not to where we want to be. Even our performances the last few weekends would not win a championship. We need to remain hungry. The time is getting short for us to get to where we need to be."
Pacific has hovered around .500 all season and despite losing matches at Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara, the Tigers have been very dangerous. Their record includes wins over UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge, UC San Diego, USC and a sweep of Long Beach State.
"They're a very dangerous team," Peterson said. "Because of some injuries, they've been down lately. They can be very good. We need to make sure we're playing well no matter who's on the floor for them."
Brian Zudrow is Pacific's top offensive threat, registering 4.68 kills per game. He is followed by Nils Dauburs, who averages 2.74 kills per game. Dauburs is one of the top service and blocking threats in the nation. His .58 aces per game and 1.38 blocks are in the top-ten in both categories. Mike Gawlik patrols the back row, digging up 2.09 balls per game.
Pacific is one of the stronger defensive teams in the league, holding teams to a paltry hitting percentage of .249 in MPSF play. As a team, the Tigers average 8.65 digs and 2.94 blocks.
The all-time series between the teams belongs to the Cougars at 13-4. BYU has won the last three meetings, including two sweeps at the Fieldhouse in 2004, while Pacific has never strung together consecutive victories over the Cougars. Their last meeting in Stockton was in 2003 and resulted in a split of two five-game matches.
The Cougars are gaining momentum going into a tough stretch with two-match series against MPSF powerhouses Hawai'i and Long Beach State. Peterson said the BYU can use any momentum it can get from playing Pacific.
"We have to win these matches and improve as we do it," he said. "We need to win the rest of our matches to have a chance to get to the final four."
Michael Burke has led the Cougars' resurgence, raising his hitting percentage to .514 over the last three weeks. In that stretch, he has recorded just four hitting errors and hit over .600 in three of six matches. Against USC, Burke hit .656, including a near-perfect 9-of-10 on Saturday (March 5). During MPSF play, he is hitting .534.
Rob Neilson has done an excellent job distributing the production among his hitters, causing opponents to guess where the set will go. Five players are averaging over two kills per game and in three of the last four matches four different players have recorded double-digit kills. Neilson is averaging 13.39 kills per game, which is second-best in the nation.
After two matches in Stockton, BYU will be back in Provo for two matches with Hawai'i March 18 and 19.