MPSF volleyball race heating up


    By Stephen Vincent

    The BYU men”s volleyball team wants to win its third national title in five years.

    The shortcut to do so is to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title.

    The Cougars (15-4 overall, 13-3 MPSF), who trail league-leader Pepperdine (16-2, 14-1) by one and a half games, will need some help to win the regular-season crown.

    The regular season conference winner not only hosts the conference tournament, but it is also likely to get the at-large bid should they falter in the MPSF tournament, BYU coach Tom Peterson said.

    Only four teams go to the NCAA Tournament: the three conference tournament winners and one at-large team.

    Because of the strength of the MPSF, the at-large bid almost always comes from the conference, Peterson said.

    That means while BYU is trying to catch Pepperdine, it also has to distance itself from the rest of the teams that might earn an at-large bid, No. 2 Hawaii in particular.

    Last year, after Pepperdine won the MPSF tournament, the selection committee chose Hawaii, the No. 2-ranked team, over No. 3 BYU for the at-large bid.

    Hawaii went on to win the national championship.

    This season, Hawaii is again ranked No. 2, BYU is No. 3, and the Warriors could again nudge BYU to win the at-large bid, should Pepperdine win the tournament.

    The Warriors (15-5, 9-5) earned a split when they traveled to Provo in February. Later that month, Hawaii split with top-ranked Pepperdine, handing the Waves their only conference loss of the season.

    Of the top five teams in the MPSF, Hawaii has the weakest remaining schedule.

    The Warriors host No. 6 Pacific (13-8, 8-5) this weekend, then face MPSF cupcakes UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and USC to finish the season.

    With that schedule, Hawaii is likely to finish in third, but it could catch BYU for second place.

    BYU has perhaps the toughest remaining schedule of the top five MPSF teams. A road trip to No. 10 Cal State-Northridge this week is followed with a home stand against No. 4 Long Beach State.

    The Cougars finish the season at No. 1 Pepperdine. If both BYU and Pepperdine win all their contests prior to that weekend, the Cougars would need a sweep to tie the Waves for the title.

    If the Cougars can”t catch the Waves, the most likely outcome is BYU finishing in second place, and Hawaii in third.

    Hawaii and BYU would then probably meet in the semifinals of the conference tournament. The winner would not only go to the championship game, but also would get the inside track for the at-large bid should they falter in that contest.

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