Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Ivan Perez and the BYU Cougars open the season this weekend in San Diego.

Talk about a conspicuous kickoff to BYU's 2008 men's volleyball season.

With most of their college counterparts having a week's worth of nonleague action under their belts, the Cougars open their season tonight on the road — a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation weekend matches at UC San Diego — sporting a No. 1 national ranking and being tailed by a still-unresolved NCAA investigation that is well into its second year.

BYU (0-0) faces UCSD (1-0) tonight in the MPSF opener, with a second match Saturday night — both at 7 p.m. Pacific. The Tritons topped UC Santa Cruz 3-1 at home last week.

For starters, it might be a nice way for the Cougars to ease into the '08 season and league play. BYU is 22-0 overall against San Diego, including 17 sweeps of the Tritons. The Cougars won both matches played in Provo last April.

Leading BYU will be a pair of All-America seniors in middle blocker Russell Holmes and outside hitter Ivan Perez, the latter playing this week with Puerto Rico's national team at the NORCECA Olympic qualifier.

Perez may rejoin the Cougars this weekend but likely will not play, and 2007 fellow All-America outside hitter Yosleyder Cala is gone, having turned professional. That leaves the likes of Andrew Stewart and Mat Taylor — both seeing valuable playing time last year — to lead the outside attack this weekend.

Holmes will be joined by fellow senior Trent Sorensen in the middle, while senior Jonathan Charette returns from a redshirt season to headline the opposites after Robby Stowell's departure to serve an LDS Church mission.

Setter Yamil Perez — last year's national newcomer of the year — and libero Joel Silva resume their starting roles after stellar freshmen efforts last season.

BYU is ranked No. 1 in this week's AVCA Top 15 poll, just ahead of perennial powerhouse Pepperdine. The order of the two was reversed in the MSPF preseason coaches poll, with the Wave earning five of 12 first-place votes and 108 points and the Cougars at 105 points with five first-place votes of their own.

Shawn Patchell remains as interim head coach, with last year's co-coach Ryan Millar leaving to return to play professionally and to join the U.S. National Team in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, Patchell retains the "interim" coach tag for the second year as BYU awaits an NCAA decision on the Cougars' self-reported violations from mid-2006. University officials met with the NCAA in early December in the latest follow-up but were told that a decision — and possible penalties — likely would not come any earlier than late January or early February.

After the weekend matches in San Diego, BYU continues its season-opening five-match road swing with dates at No. 9 IPFW, at Lewis College (which upset BYU in the 2003 NCAA championship match) and at No. 15 Loyola-Chicago.

The Cougars open at home Jan. 25-26 against Cal Baptist, which has claimed four consecutive NAIA national titles.


E-mail: [email protected]

2008 BYU men's volleyball

Dates Opponent

Jan. 11, 12 at UC San Diego*

Jan. 18 at IPFW

Jan. 19 at Lewis

Jan. 21 at Loyola-Chicago

Jan. 25, 26 Cal-Baptist

Feb. 1, 2 CS Northridge*

Feb. 15, 16 at UC Irvine*

Feb. 22, 23 Stanford*

Feb. 29, March 1 Pacific*

March 7, 8 Pepperdine*

March 13, 14 at UCLA*

March 20, 21 at Long Beach State*

March 28, 29 UC Santa Barbara*

April 3, 4 at Hawaii*

April 11, 12 Southern California*

April 19 MPSF quarterfinals

April 24, 26 MPSF semis, finals

May 1, 3 NCAA Final Four

* — Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches