The BYU men’s volleyball schedule was released this past week, and there is plenty for Cougar fans to be excited about going into the 2012 season.
“We will be hosting some really great matches,” captain Robb Stowell said, “and it will be fun to play tough schools like USC, Stanford and Pepperdine at home.”
BYU will have 16 home matches this season — the most the Cougars have had since the 2003 season. BYU will also play 10 matches on the road, with most of them being played during the last two months of the season.
“Playing at home is the best,” Stowell said. “We have the best and loudest fans in the country. It is always exciting to play at home because the fans make it great. The Smith Fieldhouse is by far the most fun place to play.”
Having so many home matches will be an advantage for the Cougars, since they will be facing three teams at the start of the season that were ranked in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation top four at the end of last season.
“Just being able to rest and take care of school work is an advantage that comes with playing at home,” head coach Chris McGown said. “Obviously, playing in the Fieldhouse is an amazing environment and provides us with the chance to play in familiar surroundings.”
Regardless of the difficult schedule, the Cougars are still one of the preseason favorites to win the NCAA Championship.
“It is an honor to be in the championships discussion,” McGown said, “but we want to get our program to the point where we expect to be one of the best and have the confidence that the best teams have.”
BYU has added motivation because of its disappointing loss in the quarterfinals last season. The Cougars were the No. 2 seed in the MPSF tournament but were upset by No. 7 UC Santa Barbara.
“We are in an eight-hour period where we can practice for two hours everyday,” McGown said. “We are focused on the fundamentals of volleyball and want to refine things like our footwork patterns. Our biggest issue will be serving and passing, so working on our fundamentals is exactly what we need to do to prepare.”
The Cougars have three returning All-Americans: opposite hitter Stowell, outside hitter Taylor Sander and middle attacker Futi Tavana.
“We will have a target on our backs but that doesn’t add any extra pressure,” Stowell said. “We just have to play hard and work harder.”
The Cougars will kick off this season playing in the E-Bar Tournament in Santa Barbara on Jan. 6-7. BYU will hold the first home match on Jan. 20 against USC in the Smith Fieldhouse.