Cougs plan to slam Bruins into ruins

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    By Ben Schroeder

    There”s only one thing BYU men”s volleyball team needs to do this week: play their best match of the season tonight and Friday, April 9, at the Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA.

    “These matches determine what happens in the play-offs and the rankings at the end of the season. It is a huge weekend for us,” head coach Tom Peterson said. “We need to be more disciplined in every aspect of our play.”

    No. 1 BYU (21-3, 17-1) will be as focused as they ever have to keep their 20-match winning streak going and capture the conference regular season title. UCLA (20-4, 14-4) has a team much like BYU in that no one player is truly a dominating force and BYU will not be able to key in on their best players like they have against other teams this season. UCLA leads the series 29-10, but the Cougars have won the last three matches including last year sweeping the Bruins in Provo.

    BYU has only won at UCLA twice with a 2-13 record. The Cougars will need outstanding performances from it”s senior outside hitters Jon Alleman, Fernando Pessoa and Joe Hillman

    Last week Alleman and Hillman hit over .500 for match one against UC San Diego. Junior Mike Burke posted a .786 hitting percentage with two blocks to keep the Tritons defense off balance. BYU lead the conference in hitting percentage (.362) and kills (17.21). Middle blocker Victor Batista is second in the league in attack percentage (.481) giving the Cougars another look on offense.

    The Bruins are on a three-match winning streak, including a win over Pepperdine and UCS. In an attempt to make the Pavilion more difficult to play in, UCLA will be hosting area volleyball teams and prizes for the first 250 people in. In the last century UCLA has been the dominant school for volleyball. The last national title came back in 2000 and the Bruins are hungry to return to familiar territory by winning the National Championships this year.

    However, BYU is having it”s best season since 1999 and have the same goal of taking the NCAA title home to Provo. The Cougars have played well under pressure. When BYU was at Long Beach State they came back from an 0-2 start to win the match in five games and go home with their fourth straight win and momentum. If BYU handles UCLA this week it could just give the Cougars more confidence going into the conference tournament and NCAA tournament.

    UCLA will look for most of their offence from Steve Klosterman who leads the team with 309 kills. Quick hitters Chris Pena and Paul Johnson will provide more looks for the Bruins. UCLA is No. 3 in the latest USA Today/AVCA Coaches poll.

    “UCLA is playing very well and their team is very deep,” Peterson said.

    Both matches will be broadcast live on the Bruin”s website www.uclabruins.com, with play-by-play from Lou Riggs and Paul Nihipali giving game analyst.

    This will mark the last road-match of the season for the Cougars, before they return home to face USC and finish off the season. BYU holds a three game lead in the conference over second place Long Beach State.

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