BYU men's volleyball: Cougars gear up to take on defending national champion UC Irvine

Published: Thursday, March 13 2014 7:30 p.m. MDT

BYU's Josue Rivera (6), BYU's Taylor Sander (15), BYU's Carson Heninger (2) and BYU's Jaylen Reyes (12) celebrate a kill during a match against the Stanford Cardinals Friday, January 24, 2014 at the Smith Fieldhouse South Field in Provo.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

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PROVO — The No. 3-ranked BYU men's volleyball team returns home this weekend to host defending national champion UC Irvine and UC San Diego. The Cougars will face the No. 8-ranked Anteaters Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse and the Toreros the following night inside the same venue.

Both matches begin at 7 p.m. MDT and will be televised on BYUtv.

The Cougars (13-4, 13-2 MPSF) sit atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings despite dropping a match last Friday on the road to then No. 3-ranked Long Beach State 3-1. The team rebounded the next night to defeat Cal State Northridge 3-1.

It's normally star outside hitter Taylor Sander leading the way for the Cougars, but Saturday against Northridge it was freshman Tim Dobbert pacing BYU with a team-high 15 kills.

Dobbert stepping up, among others, has coach Chris McGown excited heading into this weekend's matches and for the rest of the season.

"Tim was great last week and it's been interesting to see the ebbs and flows of our team — particularly at (Dobbert's) position," McGown said. "I think we have three guys who work hard there and I think all our team is working hard to be the best team we can be."

McGown believes he'll need contributions from everyone to get past UC Irvine Friday.

"I think Irvine has finally found a lineup they like and they're a great team like they usually are," McGown said. "They have a lot of seniors, so there's a lot of maturity, and they're really physical and it's always a tough match when we go against them and we expect the same this time around."

The Cougars lost to the Anteaters in the national championship match last season before defeating them on the road back on Jan. 17 for their first road win of the season.

"They're a different team now and we're a different team, so I'm excited to see how we match up," McGown said. "Yes, they were the team that beat us for the championship last year, but I don't think that's a factor, or something we focus on. We're just focused on playing another great team coming into our place and making our own improvements. It should be a lot of fun."

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney

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