Conference Action Begins at Home
PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team begins conference play against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponent Cal State Northridge Friday and Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse. Friday's match will begin at 7 p.m., while Saturday's match starts at 8:30 p.m.
With four starters and 10 players returning from last year's squad, the Cougars hope to start off strong and continue the success they had from last season. USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll ranked BYU as the No. 8 team in the country, and the Cougars look to move up as Northridge is currently ranked ahead at No. 5.
The match-up this weekend will be the 28th meeting between the two teams, as BYU leads the series 16-12 against the Matadors and 9-6 at home. The Cougars met Northridge in the first round of the MPSF Tournament last season, defeating the Matadors 3-1 at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"Northridge took second place at a prestigious tournament last week," BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. "They only lost two starters from last year, so they should be a tough team in the league."
BYU's trip to Pepperdine for the Warner Center Marriott Tournament was disappointing, as the Waves swept the Cougars in three games both nights. Even with returning All-Americans Carlos Moreno and Jon Alleman, the Cougars are experiencing a little growing pains with players moving positions and top returners Mike Burke and Chris Gorny out with injuries.
"It's always nice to play at home while we are trying to get better," Peterson said. "We need to work on our offensive threat in the middle, which was a strength for us last year."
With players still competing for starting positions, the team's depth will help Peterson find the right combination of players. As an opposite side hitter, senior Joe Hillman led BYU against Pepperdine with 28 kills in two matches and registered a .373 hitting percentage. Moreno returns as the Cougars' setter and the only starter playing in the same position as last season. Alleman and senior Fernando Pessoa have both switched positions to the outside and are adjusting to their new responsibilities.
The Matadors started the 2004 season with a win last week against Quincy University and now has a 3-1 record after playing in the 40th Annual UCSB/Elephant Bar Collegiate Invitational. Northridge defeated host Santa Barbara in four games on Friday and went five games to beat Long Beach State on Saturday morning, earning a trip to the tournament championship against UCLA.
In Peterson's first season with the Cougars in 2003, the team finished with a 23-7 overall record and 17-5 in the MPSF. BYU closed the 2003 season as the NCAA Runner-up to Lewis University, after defeating Penn State in the NCAA Semi-Finals.