Big Weekend: UCLA and the National Championship Banner
PROVO -- The BYU men's volleyball team will be back in Provo for a showdown with the No. 1 team in the nation, the UCLA Bruins, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. The 2004 team will be honored by the unveiling of the National Championship banner before Friday's match.
Historically, UCLA has dominated the world of NCAA men's volleyball, having won 18 National Championships, most recently in 2000. The Cougars have replaced them as the team to beat in the last six years though, winning in 1999, 2001 and 2004.
Almost all the players from the 2004 team will be in attendance and be honored before the match on Friday for their amazing run to the National Championship. The team included four All-Americans, including BYU's first AVCA National Player of the Year, Carlos Moreno, fellow First-Team All-American Fernando Pessoa, and Second Teamers Victor Batista and Joe Hillman. Only Batista is playing with the current squad.
Coach Tom Peterson said he hopes the Fieldhouse will be packed to honor the 2004 team and cheer the current group on to victory.
"It will be a fun night for the crowd," Peterson said. "I hope we have to turn people away at the gates because we are so full. The crowd support helps us so much. We have the best fans in the country."
The matches will be the 35th and 36th between the teams, with the Bruins owning the 23-11 advantage. BYU has owned the series since 2001, winning six of eight, including the 2001 National Championship match. Since 1999, the Cougars have won five straight over UCLA in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Bruins own the best record in the country at 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UCLA's record includes wins over Long Beach State, Cal Baptist, Pepperdine, and UC Irvine.
"They'll be the best team we play," Peterson said. "Most people would consider them to be the team to beat this season."
Middle blocker Paul Johnson has been dominant for the Bruins, averaging 3.46 kills per game while hitting .521. Opposite hitter Steve Klosterman and outside hitter Jonathan Acosta are second and third on the team in kills averaging 3.17 and 3.12, respectively. As a team, UCLA is out-hitting its opponents .358 to .259.
According to Peterson, BYU will need to be on top of its game to defeat the Bruins.
"We will have to overcome all the ups and downs we've had," Peterson said. "We'll have to play a great match to be them. We can't have the same ups and downs we've had in the last few weeks. This could determine who wins the regular season in the MPSF."
The Cougars split two matches with UC Santa Barbara last weekend and now stand at 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the MPSF. BYU dropped the Friday match in four games in a match filled with errors and missed opportunities. The Cougars were on fire Saturday as the swept the Gauchos and hit a season-high .506. Junior outside hitter Victor Batista finished with a career-high 23 kills and hit .656.
After falling from No. 2 to 3, BYU will hope to climb back up in the national rankings with a good showing versus UCLA. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early to guarantee a seat.
Friday's match can be seen on BYU-TV and KBYU-TV and heard on BYU radio.