The BYU men’s volleyball team remains ranked No. 1 in the country despite losing to Long Beach State last weekend, and will host games against UC Santa Barbara and UCLA this weekend.
The Cougars received eight first-place votes, edging out UC Irvine’s seven in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll. Long Beach State moved up four spots from No. 7 to No. 3 after defeating BYU on Feb. 1.
BYU hosts UC Santa Barbara on Thursday night. The No. 15 ranked Gauchos are coming off back-to-back wins over UC San Diego and Cal Baptist, but sit at 5–7 on the season. They are led by right side hitter Matt Marsh, who leads the team in kills with 142 on the season and averages 3.46 per set. The Cougars went 2–1 against them last year.
The Cougars have Friday night off before hosting No. 6 UCLA Saturday night. UCLA has won 19 men’s volleyball championships, more than any other college volleyball team, and are 8–5 on the season. BYU is 23–29 all-time against UCLA, finishing 1–1 against them on the road last year. The Bruins are led by 7’0″ outside hitter Robart Page, who leads the team with 160 kills averaging 3.56 per set.
It could could be freshmen leading the way for the Cougars against this perennial team, however. With the injury to middle blocker Rusty Lavaja, freshman Michael Hatch has stepped up and is getting time on the court. Freshman Tyler Heap has also seen time at setter. BYU head coach Chris McGown said he is preparing for the future.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is build a team with some depth,” McGown said. “The only way to have some depth is to have some guys with some match reps.”
McGown was also frustrated by BYU’s play against Long Beach, but is optimistic the weaknesses exposed can be fixed this season.
“It’s not an overnight solution,” McGown said. “It’s going to take a lot of repetition, a lot of focus, (a lot of) practice. We’ll talk to our boys about the fact that these are wonderful things to have exposed this time of year. We saw some ugly spots, and this is the time we want to see them because now we can start to work get better.”