Cougars catch break with Long Beach loss

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    By GREGORY BENNETT

    The chance for the No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball team to host the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament brightened Wednesday with a loss by No. 1 Long Beach State.

    Long Beach State handed the Cougars their only loss of the season two weeks ago in the Marriott Center. The win gave the 49ers the top ranking in the country and put them in control of their own hosting destiny.

    If the 49ers had won their remaining matches, they would have enjoyed the head-to-head advantage over the Cougars and would have hosted the tournament, which is scheduled to start April 24 with the championship being held May 1.

    However, No. 13 UC-Irvine gave BYU a chance to host the tournament when it handed Long Beach State its second loss of the season, 15-11, 15-9, 15-6. The loss gives the Cougars the best record in the MPSF and therefore puts them in command of hosting the tournament.

    The playoff rules state that the divisional champion that has the best overall MPSF record will be the top seed in the tournament and host the tournament.

    BYU and Long Beach State are the two leaders of their respective divisions, the Mountain and the Pacific, so one of them will most likely host.

    BYU head coach Carl McGown recognizes the opportunity his team has, but knows that there is still a lot of volleyball to be played and that anything can happen.

    “We have got to take care of business,” McGown said. “The Long Beach State loss gives you good perspective. It lets us see what happens when you don’t tend to business.”

    Tending to business is something the Cougars will need to do in four matches in five days next week during a road trip to California.

    BYU will play No. 9 Loyola Marymount University Tuesday to start the trip and will also face UC-Northridge and UC-Santa Barbara. The UC-Northridge match is Wednesday, and the Cougars will finish by playing two matches against UCSB next weekend.

    The Cougars have already defeated Loyola Marymount and UC-Northridge this season by identical 3-0 scores. Despite the past success, McGown knows the Cougars need to be focused to avoid the type of upset that happened to Long Beach State.

    “We played exceptionally well in Loyola and we didn’t at Northridge,” McGown said. “But we won both matches 3-0. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. We need to play well and understand the importance of the matches.”

    UC-Santa Barbara is currently 8-11 overall and 4-10 in MPSF play. The Gauchos are led by Kevin Collins, who averages nearly seven kills per game.

    The Cougars are coming off a weekend where they defeated No. 3 Pepperdine 3-0 in a pair of matches at the Smith Fieldhouse. The wins against the Waves, who were then ranked No. 2 in the USA Today/AVCA national poll, gave BYU a 21-1 overall record.

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