Conference season is winding down for the BYU men’s volleyball team and every game is critical. The next two weeks are arguably some of the most important of the season.
No. 4 Hawaii comes to Provo this Friday and Saturday and hopes to make the Cougars’ chances for a conference championship a little more difficult.
Hawaii is currently on a 15-match win streak and a program-record 32-set win streak. The team’s only losses are to No. 1 Long Beach State.
BYU Head coach Shawn Olmstead said the Rainbow Warriors are well balanced in all positions.
“They’re scrappy and not afraid to get after it on the service line,” he said. “It’s all the things you want to have as you build a team. They have a lot of good things going for them.”
There are plenty of Hawaii players to keep an eye out for. Stijn van Tilburg leads the Warriors in kills (217) and has a hitting clip of .416. Kupono Fey is also a powerhouse on the outside with 136 kills on the season and a .262 clip. Larry Tuileta leads in digs (161). Tuileta has ties to Provo through his little sister Kiani Tuileta, a setter on the BYU women’s volleyball team.
While the energy of the Smith Fieldhouse can rattle some teams, the Warriors are no strangers to big attendance records.
“Playing at Hawaii is very similar,” Olmstead said. “(They have) good fans, knowledgeable fans, who want good volleyball. In general they want good volleyball.”
The Cougars have overcome many challenges throughout their 11-match win streak.
“They’re adapting to their circumstances really well,” Olmstead said. “They’re serving well. We’re adapting in serve receive and our defense is getting better and better.”
Olmstead said because the serve is the first line of defense, it enables the Cougars to pull their opponents off the net. During the Cougars’ last home match against Cal Baptist they recorded 11 serving aces.
“It just gives us a little more confidence at the service line,” hitter Brenden Sander said. “Jake gets to go back, be confident and hit as hard as he can. Same with me.”
Sander added that dominant serving takes pressure off the other team members who are focused on other aspects of the game.
BYU’s talent is spread across the roster with contributions from many different players. The Cougars’ various injuries have provided opportunities for other players to step on the court.
“Our depth is good,” blocker Price Jarman said. “We’ve got guys coming off the bench really playing well. Everybody is doing their job.”
With the looming match against No. 1 Long Beach State next week, the Cougars are determined to stay focus on the No. 4 match up this week.
“We’re competing for championships in this conference and some bigger things beyond that,” Olmstead said. “We’ve got to just focus on each and everyday that’s all.”
While much of postseason is yet to be determined, one thing is certain. By the end of the weekend, one of these teams will have lost its hard-earned win streak.