From left: Miki Jauhiainen, Gabi Garcia Fernandez and Davide Gardini line up against UCLA on Feb. 6 in the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars are ranked No. 1 in the nation with games against Pepperdine this weekend. (Preston Crawley)

BYU men’s volleyball remains No. 1 in AVCA poll, switches focus to Pepperdine

The BYU men’s volleyball team remains at No. 1 in the latest AVCA poll, after splitting the season-opening series with UCLA.

BYU split the 16 first-place votes 8-8 with Hawaii, who have yet to play a game. BYU claimed the top spot in the tiebreaker by having more total adjusted points than Hawaii.

The Cougars welcome No. 7 Pepperdine (2-0) to the Smith Fieldhouse for a two-game series on Feb. 12 and 13. This is a highly-anticipated matchup in MPSF play with BYU favored to win the conference and Pepperdine picked to finish second in the MPSF coaches’ poll.

BYU has not lost to Pepperdine since April 18, 2019.

Keys to the series

Defense

BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said he wants his team to continue the defensive mentality that was seen in the UCLA win on Feb. 6.

Particularly, Olmstead highlighted the need to disrupt the effective Pepperdine passing game and willingness to play the ball defensively

“Part of defense is mentality. You got to want to get down and dirty,” Olmstead said. “If we can have that mindset and that mentality, we’ll be good.”

Focus on BYU’s side of the net

The Cougars need to focus on what they can control on their side of the net during the series against Pepperdine, Olmstead said. “It’s us just taking care of things on our side of the net, things that we can manage. If we can do that and play pretty disciplined, I think we’ll be in a pretty good spot.”

Hit percentage

BYU has been successful this season when hitting at a high percentage and will need to do so against Pepperdine.

In the loss against UCLA, BYU tallied a .168 hit percentage with 24 errors. Meanwhile, in the win against UCLA two days later, the Cougars hit at .406 with just nine errors.

Injury report

Senior setter Wil Stanley participated at every practice this week, Olmstead said. The 2020 All-American missed the first game of the season with an ankle sprain but returned in BYU’s win over UCLA.

Weekly honors

Senior opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez racked up weekly honors, taking home the AVCA Player of the Week award and the MPSF Player of the Week award.

Garcia Fernandez got 12 kills and two aces on a career-high .800 hit percentage in the win against UCLA.

BYU’s first game against Pepperdine will take place on Friday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. Game two will also be in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 13, starting at 7 p.m. Both games will air on BYUTV.

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