Men’s volleyball set on recapturing title

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    By Brent Hinckley

    Last season the men”s volleyball team faced perennial powerhouse UCLA in the National Championship, and swept the Bruins to win their second NCAA National Championship in three years.

    Senior outside hitter Mike Wall was a key figure on that championship team and returns to lead the Cougars again this year.

    “We can definitely win the National Championship again if guys have confidence,” Wall said.

    The No. 5 Cougars begin defending their title this weekend when No. 4 Stanford comes to Provo.

    Wall said the Friday and Saturday matches against Stanford are huge. He said if the Cougars can beat Stanford both nights, he believes the team will lose very few games this season.

    Last season BYU beat Stanford twice in Palo Alto, Calif. These matches against Stanford will be crucial for the Cougars because the Cardinals have several returning starters, and the Cougars are introducing three new, younger players to their starting line-up.

    The Cougars graduated several of their players from last season”s national championship team, including NCAA Player of the Year, setter Hector Lebron.

    “With the loss of four great players, the other guys have to be better. Chris Gorny and Rafael Paal – they”re doing well and they”re playing well,” head coach Carl McGown said.

    Although they lost players, the Cougars are returning several starters including Wall, Joaquin Acosta and Jaime Mayol. Rafael Paal, a junior transfer from Cal-Baptist, joins Chris Gorny as middle blocker, and Jeremiah Larson has taken over the setting duties of Lebron.

    Sophomore outside hitter Jonathan Alleman said some of the strengths of this year”s team are found in Wall”s solid leadership and in the defense.

    Wall agreed the defense is playing really well. “It”s really hard to put a ball away in the gym right now. The guys are making great digs and playing good defense,” he said.

    Wall said another strength of the team resides in the great coaching staff that knows how to win. McGown is in his 13th year as head coach with an overall record of 182-124.

    The Cougars take on the Cardinals in back-to-back matches on Friday and Saturday nights. Both games begin at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.

    The 2001 championship team will be honored prior to Friday night”s game. The ceremony will feature remarks by President Bateman, as well as the unveiling of the 2001 National Championship banner.

    The Cougars play at home every weekend now through the first weekend in February.

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