By Brent Hinckley
The hunt for the 2002 NCAA men”s volleyball champion begins Saturday, when the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference tournament begins.
The Cougars will begin the defense of their crown by hosting No. 5 Stanford on Saturday. The Cougars and Cardinal split the season openers back in January in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Cougars are coming off a four-game road trip where they went 3-1. One of those victories was a sweep over No. 2 Hawaii.
“The trip was positive for us,” coach Carl McGown said. “We could see that we can play pretty good sometimes.”
Sophomore middle blocker Chris Gorny said the team was feeling pretty confident heading into the playoffs.
“We”re feeling good, we”re peaking at the right time,” he said. “We”re real confident, not just for Saturday but for the whole thing.”
The match against Stanford will be the final home match for the seniors and McGown. It was announced Wednesday that McGown will be leaving BYU following the completion of the season. McGown citied a lack of support from the administration as his reason for leaving.
While the players have that in the back of their minds they are focused on the job at hand – returning to the Final Four.
“There are a lot of mixed feelings,” senior outside hitter Joaquin Acosta said about McGown”s leaving. “We want to do our best and send him out the way he deserves.”
Gorny said the team would wait until after the season to worry about the effects of McGown”s departure.
“Right now we still have him, so we have to use him until the end,” Gorny said.
Saturday”s match will be the third meeting this season between the teams, who were only a game apart in the standings. Junior outside hitter Curt Toppel is Stanford”s leading attacker. Toppel has accumulated 495 kills on the season, the second highest number of kills in the country.
“Stanford has one of the best players in the country (Toppel),” McGown said. “He”s difficult to stop.”
However the Cougars are led by senior opposite hitter Mike Wall, who ranks third in the country in kills with 484.
“We”re pretty confident,” Wall said. “It”s Carl”s last game, Troy”s last game, my last game, and Joaquin”s last game here. I want to give it my all.”
Because the match is a MPSF conference tournament game, Cougar Club Cards and All-Sport Cards will not be accepted. Ticket prices are $10 general admission and $5 students.
The match is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.