By Stephen Vincent
The BYU men”s volleyball team wants to do more than just set the NCAA volleyball attendance record this weekend against the defending national champions.
The No. 4 Cougars” matches against No. 2 Hawaii today and Friday will show whether the Cougars can win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title.
Thursday”s match will be at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. Friday”s match-the one during which BYU will try to set the record-will be at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center.
BYU set the current attendance record when 14,156 fans saw BYU beat Hawaii in five games on Feb. 19, 1999.
Friday”s match will be the first time that a men”s volleyball match has been played in the Marriott Center since that date.
BYU has promoted the game extensively.
BYU has allowed teams to sign up for a three-on-three tournament that will be staged between games two and three of Friday”s match.
Fans have been signing up their teams in the Wilkinson Center and Hogi Yogi.
From the signed-up teams, 10 will be selected to play off at the Marriott Center, and the winning team will face a group of BYU volleyball players.
BYU has also sold tickets for $1 at Hogi Yogi and Brent Brown Toyota.
BYU players said they were excited at the prospect of playing in front of a record-breaking crowd.
“It”s amazing for me to see 6,000 people cheering BYU (in matches at the Smith Fieldhouse),” said sophomore setter Carlos Moreno. “If we break the record, it”s more than 14,000. I have goose bumps already.”
Senior Jaime Mayol was a redshirt when the Cougars broke the record in 1999.
“I started sweating, shaking and wanting to be in there (during the 1999 match),” Mayol said. “The feeling is just amazing having over 10,000 people just screaming.”
BYU coach Tom Peterson sees Friday”s match as chance for the Cougar fans to show that they are the best.
“We have the greatest crowds,” Peterson said. “Hawaii would argue with us. They go crazy for men”s volleyball. I guess they”ve had 10,000 before because that”s all that their arena holds.”
Mayol and Moreno both said large crowds make them play better.
“I love having the crowd to support us,” Mayol said. “I like having my back covered by the fans. It”s fun; it”s entertaining, it pumps you up.”
“(Large crowds) make you play so much better,” Moreno said. “It makes you want to show the crowd what you can do.”
Peterson said he is worried that the unfamiliar surroundings at the Marriott Center might dampen the Cougars” homecourt advantage.
“It”s more of a neutral court because we are used to practicing and playing in the fieldhouse,” Peterson said. “But it”s good for volleyball.”
Peterson said he is worried that fans will attend just the Friday match and ignore Thursday”s match.
“We have to win that match; I hope people come out,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the matches are important because the Cougars need to win both of them to stay in the MPSF title hunt.
“It”s almost like if we lose these matches, it pretty much eliminates us from hosting the playoffs,” Peterson said.
BYU (8-2 overall, 8-2 MPSF) is in second place in the MPSF, trailing Pacific (11-1, 9-0).
Like BYU, No. 2 Hawaii (9-3, 5-3) needs these wins to keep their title hopes alive.
“Everyone wants to beat the number one, and in my opinion, we can be the number one,” Moreno said. “In my opinion, we have the best team in the conference. We have the biggest heart, and that”s why I think we”ll be the number one.”
Hawaii will be BYU”s toughest opponent so far this season.
Pacific (9-5, 6-2) is the only team that BYU has played so far this season that is in the top half of the MPSF standings.
BYU split with Pacific. BYU”s other four opponents are a combined 10-27 in MPSF play.
Hawaii, which was ranked No. 1 last week before a loss to Cal State-Northridge, will be a drastic change from the Cougars” previous opponents.
“Their whole team is better talent-wise than last year”s,” Peterson said.
Costas Theocharidis is Hawaii”s star. Theocharidis, a member of the Greek national volleyball team, averages 5.18 kills per game, third highest in the MPSF.
Delano Thomas, Joshua Stanhiser, Pedro Azenha and Tony Ching are the other players that Hawaii setter Kimo Tuyay regularly sets.
Thomas is the Warriors” leading blocker, averaging 1.5 blocks per game.
Libero Matt Motter contributes 2.2 digs per game.
Meanwhile, Peterson said he is most concerned about his team”s consistency.
“We beat Santa Barbara in three games one night, and they beat us in three games the next,” Peterson said. “I agree with the quote, ”You got to be great over a long period of time.” We have not been great over a long period of time yet.”