BYU men’s volleyball returns to the hardwood to face Fairleigh Dickinson

Fairleigh who?

That would be Fairleigh Dickinson University out of Teaneck, New Jersey. The Knights travel to Provo this weekend to take on the 2-0 Cougars Friday and Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Shawn Olmstead’s crew is coming off a big-time win over No. 14 Lewis two weeks ago, one that vaulted the Cougars into the AVCA Coaches Poll at No. 13. The teams traded the first two sets, with BYU pulling away to win the match three sets to one.

FDU may not appear to be such a formidable foe, but it is not to be overlooked. The Knights have only lost one set in their three games, beating Belmont Abbey 3-1 and sweeping American International twice. When taking exhibition matches into account, head coach Karl France’s squad is 5-0, with a set record of 18-3.

As a team, the Knights are hitting at a .248 clip for an average of 12.1 kills per set. Outside hitters Jack Lydon and Dylan McFadden lead the charge with 26 and 23 kills respectively, but the Knights have 12 players who have recorded least one kill, good for twice as many as the Cougars.

However, if Fairleigh Dickinson is going to upset No. 13 BYU, it will be a result of its defense. Through three games, the Knights are holding opponents to an astounding .090 hitting percentage, averaging 11.8 digs per set 24 blocks on the season.

This should be the matchup to watch this weekend, as BYU has proven to be a more offensively minded team. In their last match against Lewis, the Cougars hit 0.438 as a team, their highest hit percentage in eight matches. The team is hitting .373 on the season, averaging 11.86 kills per set.

Junior Kupono Browne has been the Cougars’ best offensive weapon this season, leading the team with 25 kills, seven aces and 33.5 points. Sophomores Miks Ramanis and Luke Benson have also been impressive, totaling 24 and 17 kills respectively. Together, the trio has accounted for 79.5% of the team’s kills and 74.5% of its points.

Ultimately, the matches will be decided by whether or not the trio of Browne, Ramanis and Benson can find space to attack the very stout FDU defense. If it can gain the upper hand in that matchup, BYU should walk away with two hard fought victories this weekend.

Both games will be played at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse.

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