By Stephen Vincent
BYU coach Tom Peterson has repeatedly made it clear that his team has one goal this season: to win its third national championship in five years.
In Friday and Saturday”s wins over UC San Diego, Peterson said his team didn”t show the improvements needed to reach that goal.
Peterson said his biggest concern is consistency. In its seven games against the Tritons, BYU blew a five-point or more lead and had to hang on to win the game. Once, on Saturday, BYU did not recover, and UC San Diego won its only game of the weekend-and just the third ever against the Cougars.
“Our guys are good volleyball players, but we”ve got to put it together as a whole team for long periods of time without mistakes,” Peterson said.
BYU hit well below its season average in both games. Averaging .345, BYU hit .297 in Friday”s 30-28, 30-28, 30-27 win, and .258 in Saturday”s 28-30, 30-23, 30-27, 30-22 victory.
The Cougars had 40 attack errors in the two matches.
“We hit a few balls out of bounds that we didn”t need to hit out of bounds,” Peterson said.
BYU did have its bright spots in hitting. Michael Burke, who leads the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in attack percentage, played well. Burke had 19 kills and just one error in the two matches, hitting for a .529 percentage.
“Carlos (Moreno”s) ball placement is impeccable in every game I”ve played in,” Burke said. “It”s not hard to hit high percentages with him setting the ball.”
Jaime Mayol came off the bench in Friday”s match and made five kills without committing an error. That performance helped Mayol earn the start over Luka Slabe in Saturday”s match, in which Mayol made 13 kills.
“Jaime came in and just lit it up,” Peterson said. “He”s the guy you notice because he can jump so stinking high.”
On Friday, BYU used a 5-0 run, keyed by Burke”s ace and Moreno”s kill, to build a 13-8 lead. But UC San Diego was able to whittle that lead to 20-19, and BYU never led by three for the rest of the game.
BYU won the game when Rafael Paal rocketed a kill past the Tritons.
The second game followed the same pattern. An early 3-0 BYU run was later followed by a 4-0 run. Jonathan Alleman had three kills in the two runs, and BYU built an 18-12 lead. But UC San Diego narrowed the gap to 29-28 after a series of Cougar errors.
But Jaime Mayol”s kill gave BYU the game.
“I wasn”t too good tonight,” Peterson said. “I”m the reason why their team comes back. I didn”t make such great substitutions at the right time.”
In Saturday”s first game, BYU built what should have been a commanding 22-17 lead. But seven BYU errors helped UCSD score 13 of the last 19 points of the game, and the Tritons took game one.
Mayol and Alleman had timely kills to win the second game, and BYU appeared to be in control when it took a 19-9 advantage in the third game, but then the Tritons went on an 11-4 run to cut the lead to three.
Eventually, UCSD had trimmed the BYU lead to 28-27, but Burke powered a kill through the Tritons. Alleman”s subsequent serve landed at the feet of a Triton who didn”t even have time to react to it.
BYU built its lead in the third game and didn”t suffer a letdown.
But it still left Peterson wondering about his team”s consistency.
“We relax too much, and other times try to do much,” Peterson said. “You don”t need to play to the crowd all the time to win a volleyball match. And if you do, you”re going to make some mistakes. We”re here to win a national championship, not just show off all the time”
BYU is on the road next weekend to face Santa Barbara. The Cougars return home to play defending national champion Hawaii on Feb. 20 and 21.