After a disappointing road loss and the end of its seven-game win streak, the No. 3 men’s volleyball team returns to Provo this weekend to host No. 12 Cal State Northridge.
There are just three weeks before MPSF tournament play begins and according to sophomore outside hitter Taylor Sander, the Cougars’ top priority is improving teamwork.
“Our team chemistry needs to improve,” Sander said. “Saturday night was a little weird for us because we weren’t playing like we normally have been this season, so it was kind of a wakeup call to us. I feel like if we stick together and are positive as teammates then I think we should be good going into the tournament.”
On March 24, BYU dropped a five-set nail-biter to No. 9 Long Beach State. The previous night, BYU rode to an easy three-set sweep. Sander said the team overlooked Long Beach and wasn’t prepared for the game.
“We played terrible as a team. We just weren’t in sync and nothing was working for us,” Sander said. “It was just a weird night. We didn’t show up to play. We hammered them on Friday night and played one of our best games of the season, but I just don’t think we were ready to play on Saturday night. They came ready to play and it really showed throughout the match.”
Sander added the team isn’t letting the tough loss get to it but rather focusing on how good the team is capable of being.
“We just need to have a positive attitude in practice this week,” Sander said. “We need to go into the games this weekend knowing that we’re one of the top teams in the nation and it’s going to be hard to stop us if we’re all playing together and we’re all excited to play and happy to be there as a team.”
According to senior opposite hitter Robb Stowell, the key to this weekend’s games will be the preparation the Cougars put in this week.
“We need to get all of our players playing at a high level every night instead of having off nights quite as often,” Stowell said. “It’s going to have to come from within. We’re going to have to focus in on every day of practice. We don’t have a lot of time left to get better, so we have to focus on playing our best and getting best every single day at every opportunity.”
Cal State Northridge is led by freshman opposite hitter Julius Hoefer. Hoefer was named the MPSF Player of the Week on March 26 after he turned in a total of 46 kills in the Matadors’ doubleheader against Hawaii last weekend. Hoefer is currently ranked 15th in the conference in kills.
According to Sander, another threat the Matadors pose is in the form of senior outside hitter Matt Stork.
“Their outside hitter, Stork, is really good,” Sander said. “He’s a really good player and can play anywhere on the court. I think if we shut him down we’ll have a good chance of winning this weekend.”
Both Stowell and Sander said though Cal State Northridge has been struggling this season, it is capable of beating BYU.
“They’re a good team and they’re streaky. They’re an on-and-off team but they have really good players and it should be a really tough match for us,” Sander said. “But I think we’re ready for this weekend and we’re going to work hard in practice this week and just make sure we’re prepared for them.”
The Cougars will host the Matadors on both Thursday and Friday nights at 7 in the Smith Fieldhouse.