Aloha' Means Goodbye for the Top-Ranked Cougars
PROVO -- After claiming the MPSF Tournament title, the top-ranked BYU men's volleyball team is set for its fourth trip in six years to the NCAA Final Four.
BYU faces fourth-seeded Lewis in the semifinal match on Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. The match is set for 8 p.m. HST (12 a.m. MDT). No. 2 Long Beach State will play No. 3 Penn State in the first semifinal match on Thursday.
Since the Cougar program started in 1990, BYU has earned a 5-1 record in the NCAA tournament, including a 3-0 record in semi-final matches. Junior setter Carlos Moreno, the MPSF Player of the Year and Tournament MVP, and experienced seniors Fernando Pessoa, Jon Alleman and Joe Hillman helped lead the Cougars to a 27-4 overall record. Pessoa earned All-MPSF Second Team honors.
With a league-leading 20-2 record, the Cougars captured the regular-season MPSF title in head coach Tom Peterson's second season with the team. BYU also set a new school record with 21 straight wins in a single season, including 15 consecutive victories in the Smith Fieldhouse.
This season the Cougars reached the No. 1 spot of the AVCA Top-15 Poll on Mar. 9, sharing the top ranking with UCLA. After two wins over Pepperdine at home, the team secured the top spot and has stayed there for nine straight weeks.
BYU holds a 6-1 advantage against Lewis, dating back to the first meeting in 1997. The two teams met this season in the Smith Fieldhouse, where BYU captured the 3-1 win in front of a season-high crowd of 4,342 (28-30, 30-25, 30-28, 30-20). The last time the teams met in postseason was last year, when the Flyers edged the Cougars for the NCAA title in a five-game battle lasting three hours.
The 49ers of Long Beach State have a one-match lead over BYU, 12-11, but the Cougars came close to evening the series with three wins this season. BYU won the first two matches in five games during conference play and claimed the MPSF Tournament title over The Beach, 3-1.
Penn State has a slight advantage in the overall series against BYU, 5-4, but the Cougars are 3-0 in postseason action against the Nittany Lions. The series started in 1990 and the last meeting between the two teams was in the NCAA Semifinals last season in Long Beach. BYU head coach Tom Peterson coached Penn State its first-ever National Championship in 1994.
Thursday's semifinal winners will advance to the championship match on Saturday at 4 p.m. HST (8 p.m. MDT).