, Jonathan Hardy
PROVO — Don't ask BYU middle blocker Futi Tavana about last year's MPSF tournament — he doesn't remember it. Or at least tries his best not to.
The BYU men's volleyball team entered last year's tournament as the No. 2 seed and a very good shot of winning it and advancing to the national final four. Even without winning the tournament, the prospects were good for receiving the one at-large bid with a good showing.
That good showing didn't materialize, however, as BYU dropped its first-round match at home to No. 7 seed Cal State Santa Barbara in four sets. BYU wasn't the only team Santa Barbara surprised last year, as it went on to take the MPSF tournament crown and punch its ticket to the final four.
So are the players dwelling on what happened to them last year? Have they learned from it and moved on?
"I've completely put everything about that match out of my mind," said Tavana. "They won, we lost and they went on to win it — that's what I remember. We don't talk about what happened last year and we've moved on.
We're not playing Santa Barbara. We're playing a completely new opponent and nothing is the same as it was last year."
BYU's opponent in the first-round is Long Beach State, which finished with a 10-12 record in MPSF play, earning it a No. 6 seed. BYU split its two matches against Long Beach on the road this season and finished conference play in a tie for second place with a 17-5 conference record.
"Long Beach is a really good team — they're all good teams in the playoffs now," observed coach Chris McGown. "Everyone we face from here on out will be a good team and Long Beach has the potential to beat us, so we're not approaching this lightly."
Although Tavana and others have erased the details of last year's game from memory, they're very cognizant of the upset potential in the MPSF tournament.
"We have the best teams in the country playing in the MPSF, so any team can beat any other team on any night," said Tavana. "It's the same thing every year and unfortunately we got beat by a hot team last year. Long Beach could be that team this year — any of the eight teams could be that team, so we need to prepare hard for everyone."
A win against Long Beach will advance BYU to the MPSF final four, which will likely be hosted by No. 1 seed USC. Short of having homecourt throughout the tournament, McGown believes that the tournament sets up perfectly for his team.
"If we had to be anywhere else (other than at home) USC is the best other scenario because that's where we'll be playing (nationals), so to get reps there in a tournament — high pressure situation, you couldn't ask for anything more," said McGown. "I like the matchups we have. I think we match up well against Long Beach and I think that we match up well against Stanford or Pepperdine — that's going to be a tough match for both of those teams, so whoever we get out of there I like the matchup.
No. 8 CS Northridge
at No. 1 USC, 8 p.m.
No. 5 UCLA
at No. 4 UC Irvine
No. 6 Long Beach St., 8 p.m.
at No. 3 BYU, 7 p.m.
No. 7 Pepperdine
at No. 2 Stanford, 8 p.m.
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