PROVO With one regular-season match left, the second-ranked BYU men's volleyball team remains in a three-way logjam atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings and more importantly, for the MPSF Tournament's top seed and the right to host the semifinals and finals.
The Cougars kept pace with Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge with a three-set sweep of No. 10 Southern California, winning 30-26, 30-24, 30-25 Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
The same two teams return tonight for a 7 p.m. regular-season finale, with BYU (22-4 overall, 17-4 MPSF) looking to extend its streak over USC the Trojans haven't beaten the Cougars since 2001 and haven't won in Provo since 1996.
Sharing identical 22-5 overall and 17-4 league records, third-ranked Cal State Northridge and fourth-ranked Long Beach State both won 3-0 sweeps Friday as well the Matadors at home against UC San Diego and the 49ers at UC Santa Barbara.
CSUN and LBSU meet tonight in Northridge for their regular-season finale.
Since BYU beat Northridge in two meetings but lost its regular-season pair to Long Beach, the Cougars hold the tiebreaker over the former but not against the latter.
Wins tonight by BYU and CSUN give BYU the No. 1 seed; wins by BYU and LBSU mean the 49ers are the top tournament seed.
A loss tonight to the Trojans, and the Cougars are looking at either a second or third seed.
After dropping three matches last month (including the two at Long Beach), BYU returned to the thick of the league chase thanks to a couple of upsets posted by UC Irvine, which defeated both Northridge and The Beach in recent weeks.
BYU coach Shawn Patchell, who earned his master's degree at UCI, said "I was really pulling for them and they came through."
And now he has another favorite MPSF team Northridge, who could do BYU a big favor by beating Long Beach. "I'm a big Matadors fan now."
Outhitting USC .312 to .177, the Cougars posted 10.5 blocks and a half-dozen aces.
"We served aggressively, and it got a good team out of system," said Patchell of the playoff-bound Trojans (13-14, 10-11 MPSF).
BYU's balanced attack boasted all starting hitters between seven and 10 kills. Middle blocker Russell Holmes had 10 while hitting .412, while fellow inside Trent Sorensen added nine at a .750 clip.
Murphy Troy led USC with 12 kills.
In the first set, BYU turned a 14-10 deficit into a 20-16 lead, keyed by Holmes slamming back a pair of long Trojan digs as Jonathan Charette served six consecutive points.
In the second, BYU sustained an early lead throughout, hitting .455 and outblocking the visitors 5-1.BYU had a 22-12 lead in the third but gave up five straight before coasting to match point.