BYU volleyball faces Penn St. in NCAA Tournament

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Steps one and two of BYU men’s volleyball coach Chris McGown’s three step program for his team this year have been completed.

Step three is within the sights of McGown and the rest of the No. 1 Cougar volleyball team.

“The entire season, we’ve had a series of goals,” McGown said. “We wanted to win every game we could in the regular season, we wanted to win the conference tournament, then we wanted to win the national championship.”

Outside hitter Josue Rivera kills the ball in the conference championship game against Long Beach State. (Photo by Elliott Miller)
Outside hitter Josue Rivera kills the ball in the conference championship game against Long Beach State. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

BYU will have the opportunity to play for a national championship if it can defeat No. 14 Penn State in Thursday’s first-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles. Beating Penn State is no given, though.

Penn State is on a hot streak as of late. It swept both of its conference tournament games, and have swept four matches in a row. Its conference tournament win over Harvard on Saturday was its 37th straight conference tournament victory. Those 37 straight wins have resulted in 15 straight conference championships and 15 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. However, they only won one national championship in those past 15 years – the 2008 title.

Penn State is led by the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Player of the Year, outside hitter Aaron Russell. He led the Nittany Lions with 3.57 kills/set. His brother Peter chipped in 2.77 kills/set and was named to the EIVA all-conference second team. Its coach, Mark Pavlik, was named EIVA coach of the year.

BYU’s McGown was named national coach of the year on Wednesday. Despite the historic success from Penn State, McGown is confident in his team, but is still preparing for a battle.

“We’ve still got work left to do,” McGown said. “We can’t put together as solid of a game plan against them just because we don’t have access to them nearly as much. To a large extent, they don’t know us (either). It comes down to who’s more fundamentally sound, who can execute when they need to, and those fundamentals will always be the backbone, the thing you lean back on. I think our team is really fundamentally good.”

BYU enters the NCAA Tournament on a five-game winning streak, and winners of 17 out of its last 18 games. It is led by MPSF Player of the year outside hitter Taylor Sander averaging 3.79 kills/set and opposite hitter Ben Patch averaging 3.56 kills/set. Both were named as first-team all-Americans. Its last MPSF Conference championship came in 2004, when it went on to win the national championship.

The first round match against Penn State starts at 8 p.m. PST (9 p.m. MST) and can be viewed online from the NCAA website.

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