PROVO, Utah – After its first road trip of the season, the No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team returns to the Smith Fieldhouse and hosts No. 14 Pacific and No. 5 Stanford, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Both matches are slated to begin at 7 p.m. MST and will be broadcast live on BYUtv.
After holding the top ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s poll for four-straight weeks, the Cougars dropped a spot to No. 2 after splitting matches on the road against then-No. 5 Pepperdine and then-No. 10 USC. BYU remains atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings.
After falling behind 2-0 at Pepperdine, BYU forced a fifth set before falling 3-2. The Cougars bounced back Saturday night, picking up their first road win of 2013 at USC (3-1). Junior Taylor Sander recorded 23 kills with a .543 clip, while tying a career-high 10 digs and two aces. Sander has recorded double-digit kills in all 12 matches.
Senior Russ Lavaja is No. 2 in the MPSF in blocks, averaging 1.38, and No. 3 in hitting percentage with a .496 clip. Lavaja is tied with Russell Holmes at No. 2 in career block assists in the BYU rally-scoring era with 477.
As a team, the Cougars are No. 1 in hitting percentage (.326) and blocks (3.11) in the conference. BYU is also holding opponents’ hitting percentage to .237, the second-best mark.
The Tigers, currently tied for 10th in the MPSF standings, are coming off back-to-back road losses at Long Beach State (3-0) and Cal State Northridge (3-1).
Javier Caceres popped up 17 digs at Long Beach State, an MPSF-high this year for any three-set match. Caceres is No. 1 in the conference in digs with 3.10 per set.
Pacific is ranked third in opponent hitting percentage (.252) and in blocks (2.60) in the MPSF.
BYU owns the series record with Pacific, 29-5. The Cougars topped the Tigers in 2012, 3-0.
The Cardinal started last weekend with a 3-1 victory at Cal State Northridge but went on to fall 3-0 at Long Beach State. In its win, Stanford hit a season-best .466, sixth-highest in the MPSF this year, guided by a .692 (29-2-39) clip over sets two and three.
Brian Cook led the Cardinal against Cal State Northridge with 21 kills on a .459 clip. Cook is No. 4 in the MPSF in points with 4.75 per set.
Stanford is No. 5 in the MPSF standings. The Cardinal holds three top-five conference team rankings. Stanford is No. 3 in service aces (1.24), No. 5 in kills (12.78) and No. 5 in assists (12.0).
BYU leads the series with the Cardinal 25-15, however, Stanford came away with wins in all three 2012 meetings. The Cardinal won both regular season contests at the Smith Fieldhouse, 3-1 and 3-0, before knocking the Cougars out of the MPSF semifinals with a 3-1 victory.
Whitney Weekes works in BYU Athletic Communications as the men's volleyball SID and football media relations assistant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company