BYU volleyball: No. 1 Cougars welcome two MPSF opponents to Provo

By Whitney Weekes

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 1:25 p.m. MST

BYU's Taylor Sander celebrates a game point in the first set against Long Beach State. The BYU Men's Volleyball team defeats Long Beach State in the Quarterfinals of the MPSF Tournament.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU, Jaren Wilkey/BYU

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Playing in its final weekend of its 10-match home stand, the No. 1 BYU men’s volleyball team (6-2, 4-2 MPSF) welcomes No. 15 UCSB (4-7, 2-5 MPSF) and No. 6 UCLA (8-5, 4-3 MPSF) to the Smith Fieldhouse.

The Cougars take on the Gauchos on Thursday, Feb. 7, and the Bruins on Saturday, Feb. 9. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. MST.

BYU is ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association for its third-straight week. The Cougars, who received eight first-place votes, share the top spot with UC Irvine (seven first-place votes). With only one conference loss, BYU is also ranked No. 1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

Last weekend, BYU dropped its second match of the season to then-No. 7 Long Beach State, 3-2. The Cougars bounced back the next night with a 3-1 win over then-No. 9 Cal State Northridge.

Junior All-American Taylor Sander leads the Cougars with 124 kills for a 4.00 average, good for sixth in the MPSF. The outside hitter has recorded double figures in kills in all eight matches. Sander is ranked No. 5 in points with 4.71 per set and No. 11 in hitting percentage with a .352 clip.

Also ranked in the MPSF is senior Russ Lavaja who is No. 3 in blocks with a 1.52 average and No. 5 in hitting percentage at .474. Junior Devin Young is also ranked in the top-15 in blocks, coming in at No. 11 with 1.13 per set. Rounding out BYU’s individual conference rankings is senior Ryan Boyce, averaging 10.31 assists for the No. 6 spot.

The Cougars, who are No. 1 in hitting percentage in the MPSF with a .335 clip, are also holding their opponents to the third lowest hitting mark (.223). Thanks to a collective team effort, the Cougars are ranked No. 2 in blocks with 3.24 per set. BYU is out-blocking its opponents 100.5 – 62.0.

The Cougars are fifth in both assists and kills with averages of 11.71 and 12.55, respectively.

UCSB

The Gauchos take on No. 12 Cal Baptist at home Feb. 5 before their contest with the Cougars. UCSB’s previous contest was a 3-1 win over UC San Diego.

The Cougars split the 2012 series with then-No. 12 UCSB. BYU captured a 3-1 win before UCSB edged out the home team 3-2. BYU leads the overall series against UCSB 28-21 and is 16-6 at home.

UCSB has out-killed its opponents 525–509. Sophomore Matt Marsh leads the team with 129 kills and is No. 9 in the MPSF. Averaging 4.08 points and 0.28 service aces, Marsh is No. 12 and No. 14, respectively, in the conference.

Chad Kingi holds the No. 2 spot in digs in the MPSF with an average of 2.75. Jonah Seif is ranked third with 10.83 assists per set, while Dylan Davis is fourth in hitting percentage with a .488 clip. Davis is also fifth in blocks with 1.40 per set.

The Gauchos hold two top-5 MPSF team rankings. UCSB is No. 3 in digs with 9.42 per set and No. 5 in opponent hitting percentage at .246.

UCLA

The Bruins are coming off a 3-0 win over UC San Diego. UCLA heads to No. 12 Cal Baptist on Feb. 7 before traveling to Provo.

BYU split the 2012 series with then-No. 3 UCLA. After taking a 3-2 win the first night, the Bruins rallied back for a 3-0 sweep. The Bruins own the overall series with a 29-23 advantage, but the Cougars remain on top at home, 13-10.

Leading the Bruins is Gonzalo Quiroga with 24 total aces on the season, for a 0.55 average. The mark gives him the top spot in the MPSF individual rankings. Quiroga is also No. 9 in points per set with 4.36 and No. 11 in kills with a 3.55 average.

Evan Mottram is ranked fourth with 2.50 digs per set, while Robert Page’s 3.56 kills per set is good for No. 10. With a .350 clip, Spencer Rowe is 13th in hitting percentage.

The Bruins hold one top-5 conference team ranking. UCLA is No. 1 in service aces with an average of 1.53.

Live stats for both matches will be available on the BYU men’s volleyball schedule page.

Whitney Weekes works in BYU Athletic Communications as the men's volleyball SID and football media relations assistant. She can be reached at mvolleyball_sid@byu.edu.

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