By Stephen Vincent
BYU”s men”s volleyball team runs into a tough task this weekend, March 21-22, when it travels to play No. 10 Cal State Northridge.
The Matadors are on pace to have their best season since 1993, the year they played in the NCAA title game.
“They are very good,” BYU coach Tom Peterson said. “They beat Hawaii and some other good teams.”
Cal State Northridge (14-8 overall, 9-7 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) could become just the third Matador squad to win 16 games in one season if they can sweep BYU (15-4, 13-3) this weekend.
The matches are important to BYU as it tries to catch first-place Pepperdine and stay ahead of third-place Hawaii in the conference standings.
The Cougars are still battling injuries and are looking for consistency.
“If we play hard and we”re consistent, that”s all I ask of (my team),” Peterson said.
On many occasions, Peterson has expressed displeasure with his team”s inconsistency, especially during the second match of a two-match series.
BYU has struggled in its second-night matches during the last month and a half, going 2-3. The Cougars barely avoided another second-night disaster last weekend when they beat UC-Irvine in five matches.
The Cougars” inconsistency has Peterson worried about the team”s trip to Cal State Northridge.
“That”s our concern, to play two good matches against a team that can go a good, physical run,” said Peterson.
BYU, however, will have to try to get the wins without junior libero Shawn Olmstead, who injured his hand in practice Tuesday.
Junior Fernando Pessoa, who has split time with Olmstead and started the Cougars” last three matches, will be BYU”s libero this weekend.
The Cougars are also without senior Chris Gorny, who also has a broken hand. Gorny will be re-evaluated Monday and could play in the Cougars” matches against Long Beach State on March 28 and 29.
The direness of BYU”s injury situation is lightened by the return of senior Luka Slabe. He missed the Cougars” match against UC-Irvine Saturday after having surgery on an ingrown toenail.
Peterson said Slabe will be used to back up senior outside hitters Rafael Paal and Jaime Mayol this weekend. Slabe will also come in to serve the ball.
The Matadors are led by one of the top players in the MPSF, Niles Nargi, who averages 4.83 kills per game while hitting a solid .328.
Nils Nielson (3.35 kills per game, .253 hitting percentage) and Scott Arneson (2.17, .365) are the Matadors” other two hitters the Cougars will need to worry about.