No. 4 Men’s volleyball to take on No. 9 Long Beach State

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The No. 4 BYU volleyball team has built an impressive 17-4 record on the season and the Cougars look to keep the momentum as they travel to California this weekend.

On March 23 and 24, BYU will face No. 9 Long Beach State, a team currently on a three-game losing streak with a lackluster 10-11 record on the season.

Though the 49ers’ record may pale in comparison to the Cougars’, players say Long Beach is a team that cannot be overlooked. On Feb. 10, Long Beach lost to No. 5 Stanford in a close five-set match. Days later on Feb. 14, they defeated No. 3 UCLA in five sets.

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Futi Tavana sets up the ball on Saturday night. The Cougars beat the #11 Tigers 3-0.
Senior middle blocker Quentin Smith and freshman libero Jaylen Reyes both said Long Beach is capable of playing with any opponent.

“Long Beach has had some great wins over some very tough opponents,” Smith said. “They are definitely a team that can beat anybody in the conference on any given night.”

The 49ers have a myriad of talented players, including sophomore outside hitter Taylor Crabb, who was captain of the US Junior National team in 2011 and was an All-MPSF Honorable Mention in 2011. Sophomore setter Connor Olbright was also on the Junior National Team and is currently ranked sixth in the MPSF conference in assists. The 49ers also wield talented middle blockers in junior Colten Echave and sophomore Jeff Ornee, who are ranked fifth and tenth, respectively, in MPSF hitting percentage.

Reyes said the key to this weekend’s matches will be playing at a high level from the start of the game.

“I think we need to work on getting off to a better start. Usually we start really slow and we kind of feel the other team out until we decide they can’t play with us and we don’t have to play to our potential instead of playing up to par where we know we can play,” Reyes said. “It’s only when the other team kind of pushes us around that we decide it’s time to play well … We have to set the bar from 0-0.”

Thanks to BYU’s six-game win streak, the Cougars have clinched a sure spot in the postseason MPSF tournament, but according to Reyes and Smith, it is not enough.

“We want to win a national championship,  that is the goal,” Smith said. “But, to get there becomes about what we can do today … We need to improve on a daily basis.  Every day we get in the gym we are supposed to have individual goals of habits we are trying to break or aspects of our game that we are trying to improve.”

Reyes added the team needs to continue winning so it can increase its chances of hosting the MPSF tournament.

“Our goal in the beginning of the year was to win the national championship, and yeah, it’s fun to clinch a spot in the playoffs but the important thing is we want to host the conference tournament,” Reyes said. “Hosting is such a big advantage and we want the road to the final four to go through the Fieldhouse.”

Teams that finish in the top four have the highest chances of hosting games throughout the tournament, but the No. 1 seed has a distinct advantage. Thus, the Cougars aim to finish the season on the highest note possible to put them in the best position to clinch home court advantage.

The Cougars will take on the 49ers on both Friday and Saturday nights at 7 PDT.

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