With three regular-season weekends remaining, the BYU men's volleyball team is having to play catchup, as a 1-3 record over a two-week road swing sent the Cougars falling from atop both the national rankings and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings.
BYU will look to snap its three-loss skid as the fourth-ranked Cougars (17-4 overall, 12-4 MPSF) play host to UC Santa Barbara (9-12, 6-10 MPSF) in 7 p.m. matches both tonight and Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Cougars are coming off a tough three-week, six-match stretch against perennial powers Pepperdine, UCLA and Long Beach State. BYU started by downing Pepperdine in the two home matches, then posting a rare three-game sweep at UCLA before falling to the Bruins in the second match at Pauley Pavilion and losing both matches at Long Beach State.
The latest CBS C/AVCA top 15 coaches poll has Penn State (21-1) atop the rankings, a mere point ahead of Cal State Northridge (19-4), followed by Long Beach State (19-3) and BYU.
The Cougars are third in the Mountain Pacific standings, behind Long Beach State (14-2 MPSF) and CSUN (15-3 MPSF), the latter a team that lost twice in Provo earlier this season but that since has racked up an 11-match win streak.
The Mountain Pacific regular-season champion earns a quarterfinal bye in the league's postseason tournament as well as the right to host the semifinals and finals.
In order for BYU to finish first and play postseason host, the Cougars will need to finish strong a two-match road swing to Hawaii and then a pair of home matches against Southern Cal conclude the season. Plus, they'll need some help from league peers to help topple the teams ahead of them.
Northridge, which swept Hawaii in two home matches earlier this week, closes out at defending NCAA champion UC Irvine, at UCLA and then with home matches against UC San Diego and Long Beach State.
That last match may decide who finishes atop the standings and who hosts the MPSF tournament.
Long Beach State, which played at UC Irvine late Thursday, is at home against UCLA before finishing up with four road matches at Pacific, Stanford, Santa Barbara and Northridge.UC Santa Barbara has won two of its last three outings, including a non-league contest. But after beating UCLA in late February, the Gauchos have dropped five of their last six Mountain Pacific matches.