PROVO — The No. 1-seeded BYU men's volleyball team begins its defense of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) title Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse against No. 8-seeded USC.
For the second year in a row, the Cougars finished first in the MPSF regular season standings and by virtue will host all three rounds of the postseason tournament should they win Saturday.
BYU (18-8, 18-6 in MPSF play) won both matches played against USC (16-10, 14-10 in MPSF play) this season. Their last meeting was Feb. 28 when the Cougars swept the Trojans (25-22, 25-16, 25-21.)
The Cougars have proved dominant at home with a sterling 11-0 home record this season and 23 straight home wins dating back to February 2013. Seven of the 11 home wins this season came in straight sets.
Despite finishing on top of the MPSF standings, the Cougars ended the regular season on a low note with four straight losses. Consecutive losses on the road to Hawaii were followed up with losses to Cal State Santa Barbara and UCLA last weekend.
The Cougars are led by outside hitter Taylor Sander, who averages 4.53 kills per set — second in the nation. Setter Michael Hatch is No. 4 nationally in blocks, averaging 1.34 per set, but is day-to-day heading into Saturday's match with a sprained ankle suffered last weekend.
For USC, Micah Christenson is first in the nation with an 11.69 assists average. Henry Cassiday is No. 2 nationally in digs per set with 3.04. Lucas Yoder leads the team in kills with 4.04 per set, while Andy Benesh leads in blocks with .97 per set.
Should the Cougars win Saturday, they'll be a good bet to receive an at-large bid to the six-team NCAA tournament in Chicago. The winner of the MPSF postseason tournament receives an automatic bid.
Saturday's game begins at 7 p.m. and will be aired live on BYUtv.