We all love playing the game so much —guys just focus on that and we've really just learned to do away with any distractions on the road. —Setter Leo Durkin
PROVO — The third-ranked BYU men's volleyball team traditionally enjoys a huge homecourt advantage, with raucous fans typically filling up the Smith Fieldhouse to the rafters.
But turns out the Cougars may be at least as good, or even better on the road, this season.
The last time the Cougars lost on the road this year? That was back on Jan. 7 when they fell to then-No.11-ranked Loyola-Chicago. Since then BYU has made trips to such places as USC, Stanford and Pepperdine, winning every match along the way and often by a convincing margin.
"I think it's just our general attitude and that we really do enjoy traveling," said BYU junior setter Leo Durkin. "We enjoy the California air — it's good for serving and I don't know, it's just been something we've enjoyed this year and we have had good success."
Granted the Cougars' schedule has been very favorable this season, with regards to whom they've played at home and on the road. No. 1 Long Beach State, No. 4 Hawaii, No. 5 UC Irvine and No. 6 UCLA have all made trips to the Smith Fieldhouse, while No. 7 Lewis University stands as the toughest test faced on the road, going by the current NCAA rankings.
But considering no road opponent has even managed to push the Cougars to five sets since Jan. 7, it's relatively easy to see they've grown quite comfortable on the road. Good thing, as the Cougars are likely to finish out this season on the road, beginning with a match versus Hawaii in the MPSF semifinals, which will be played at Long Beach.
BYU's match with Hawaii is slated for 6 p.m. on Thursday. Should they advance, they'll take on the winner of Long Beach vs. UC Irvine.
A big part of the Cougars' road success has been focusing on the task at hand.
"Coaches have made it really structured for us, so it's easy to focus," Durkin said. "We really enjoy having downtime and then have all our fun playing volleyball. We all love playing the game so much — guys just focus on that and we've really just learned to do away with any distractions on the road."
FANS AWAY FROM PROVO: Another factor in the team's road success has to do with BYU fans coming out no matter where the Cougars play.
"First and foremost it's a shoutout to the Cougar fans all over the country," said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead of his team's road success. "From what I see in other sports, attendance is high from LDS fans and BYU fans, in general. We can't thank those guys enough because we definitely know they're there."
WHAT'S AHEAD: Regardless of what happens this weekend, the Cougars stand a high chance of being invited to the six-team NCAA tournament which will be held in Columbus, Ohio. Champions of the MPSF, MIVA, EIVA and the Conference of the Carolinas all receive automatic bids with two others receiving at-large bids. The four lowest-seeded teams will all play on May 2, with the winners advancing to play the top two seeds in the semifinal round.
For the players, however, they're not thinking of likely seeding scenarios. Instead, they're just focusing on what's ahead.
"We're not focused on anything but Hawaii," Durkin said following the team's practice on Monday. "Everything else is beyond our control, so it's all about Hawaii and then we'll hopefully move on and focus on our next opponent."