Volleyball 101: Cougar Style


To truly enjoy BYU’s home opener against USC (trust me, you’re going to want to be there), knowing the rules of the game is vital.

From the basic rules of volleyball, to who’s who on the team, to the Fieldhouse itself, this article contains what you need to know about the 2012 BYU men’s volleyball team.

First, volleyball uses a rally scoring system. A “rally” is one ongoing play, during which the ball is exchanged back and forth between the two opposing teams until the ball touches the floor or is hit out of bounds. The team that wins the rally subsequently serves the ball to begin a new rally.

During a rally, each team is allowed three touches per possession. Generally, teams rely on the bump-set-spike process to score points. Ideally, one player contains the shot from the opposing team, passing the ball to the setter. The setter then sets up the ball for one of three hitters: outside, middle or opposite, who in turn spikes the ball over the net, hoping the opposing team will not return it.

To ultimately win a match, a team must win three of five sets. The first team to reach 25 points wins the set, with the exception of the fifth and final set, which is only played to 15. To win a set, a team must win by at least two points.

Perhaps more important than the rules are the athletes on the floor. In a word, the 2012 Cougar volleyball team is high on talent. Returning are three 2011 All-Americans: senior middle blocker Futi Tavana (first team), senior opposite hitter Robb Stowell (second team) and sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander (second team). Additionally, the Cougars are returning an experienced senior setter in Joe Kauliakamoa, a 2011 All-MPSF Honorable Mention. Also returning are experienced middle blockers Quentin Smith, a senior, and Russ Lavaja, a junior.

According to head coach Chris McGown, this year’s team is extremely athletic and dynamic.

“The one thing that I think people don’t really get a sense of until they’re here watching a game is how athletic these guys are,” McGown said. “They’re tall, they jump a mile, they’re strong. You just have to sit there and think, ‘these are amazing athletes.’ ”

Smith and Sander both said this year’s team is fiery and talented. But perhaps the real excitement of Cougar volleyball lies not in the game or even the athletes, but in the Smith Fieldhouse. The appeal of the Fieldhouse is the closeness of the fans to the players.

“Because the Smith Fieldhouse is such a small, compact area, unlike the Marriott Center, it gets really loud and there’s lots of ruckus,” senior opposite hitter Stowell said. “It’s a more intimate setting, you’re closer to the players and you see our reactions and the way we interact with the crowd a bit more.”

Sander expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’d say it’s the best place to play in the U.S. at this level,” he said. “Our crowd is amazing and it’s just the energy that the crowd brings to every game that makes it special. It’s amazing.”

Even for students who have never been to a game and still don’t really understand the rules, the Fieldhouse is easy to find and the Cougars will be there at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday to take on USC.

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