PROVO Following Saturday's second-in-as-many-nights sweep of Southern California, second-ranked BYU celebrated its share of the regular-season Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball championship with a "senior moment."
No, not the gray-haired, AARP-toting kind. Rather, it focused on the five upperclassmen comprising the Cougars' Class of '08.
With the 30-22, 30-25, 30-22 Smith Fieldhouse victory, BYU's senior quintet outside hitter Ivan Perez, opposite Jonathan Charette, setter Brian Congelliere and middle blockers Russell Holmes and Trent Sorensen helped the Cougars achieve one of several team goals this season: to win a MPSF championship, albeit a shared title with Long Beach State.
It erased the first of several droughts dogging the Cougar seniors, a class that during their collective collegiate careers hadn't ever won a league title, hadn't hosted the league finals and hadn't reached the NCAA Final Four. The last time for BYU to achieve any of the three was 2004, the Cougars' most recent NCAA championship season.
After dispatching the Trojans, the Cougars (23-4, 18-4 MPSF) then had to wait for the results of the late game between fourth-ranked Long Beach State and third-ranked Cal State Northridge. The Cougars were guaranteed to share the league title with the match's winner.
Long Beach State (23-5, 18-4) won at Northridge (22-6, 17-5), and because of their 2-0 regular-season record over BYU, the 49ers earn the MPSF Tournament's top seed, which carries a quarterfinal bye and the right to host the semifinals and finals.
BYU held the tiebreaker with CSUN and would have been the No. 1 seed had the Matadors won. So, the Cougar seniors barely missed on their tournament-hosting goal.
As the No. 2 seed, BYU meets the winner of Wednesday's play-in match between the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds. BYU's MPSF quarterfinal is set for Saturday in Provo, with the Cougars looking to advance to the following week's semifinals at Long Beach.
With senior blankets, flowers and hugs distributed in post-match ceremonies Saturday, the Cougar seniors were more mindful of their Final Four goal, rather than farewells.
"It's hard to see the end right now because we've got a lot of volleyball left," Holmes said. "There's still a sense of urgency for this senior class."
Added Sorensen: "We all pretty much realize that this is it, so we don't want to mess it up."
BYU outhit the No. 10 Trojans (13-15, 10-12) .255 to .024. Team captain Charette led with 14 kills, while Holmes and Sorensen added eight each, the latter hitting a team-best .583 clip and assisting on 10 of the Cougars' 13.5 team blocks.Charette led BYU in the first two sluggish games with six and five kills, respectively. The Cougars came alive in the third, hitting .412, with Perez finally getting untracked on the night with five kills in the final game.
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