Top 10 tilt: No. 8 BYU men’s volleyball travels to the City of Angels to face No. 2 UCLA

Talk about a conference opener.

BYU men’s volleyball enters MPSF play on the road against No. 2 UCLA, the highest ranked team in the league, undefeated at home and 11-1 overall.

Ranked road trips aren’t a novelty to this BYU team, as the Cougars have split series at both No. 6 UC Irvine and No. 11 Ball State this year. However, this UCLA team is shaping up to be toughest opponent yet. Not only do the Bruins have the best record of anyone the Cougars have faced so far, they have one of the most impressive rosters as well.

Head Coach John Speraw — 197-91 lifetime at UCLA — has put together quite the monster this year in Los Angeles, headed by sophomore Ido David out of Israel. David has started the last seven matches of for the Bruins, racking up 96 kills on .444 hitting during that stretch. In last year’s series (UCLA won 3-1 and 3-2 in Provo), David recorded a career-high 24 kills, and will surely be looking to break that this weekend in L.A.

Andrew Rowan is another player to watch on the UCLA side of the court. The freshman setter from Trabuco Canyon, California aided the team in hitting a season-high .551 in a win over Long Beach State last week, a match in which he also led the team in blocks (five), assists (40), and digs (six). Rowan’s success has also had success off the collegiate courts, as he won Best Setter, Best Server, and MVP for the gold-medal-winning United States in the 2022 U-21 Pan-Am Cup.

For the Cougars, this series will be about more than just getting another pair of wins; it’s about proving they belong with the best. “We weren’t ranked before the season, no one saw us being a contender in the MPSF, or the overall NCAA,” Junior Kupono Browne said. “But we are working so hard in the practice gym to achieve our goal, which is getting another banner up there.”

So far, so good for Browne and the Cougars, as they improved to 8-2 on the season and 4-2 against ranked opponents with last weekend’s 4-set wins over then No. 14 UC Santa Barbara. Sophomore Anthony Cherfan had a coming out party of sorts in those two matches, recording a career-high 14 kills on Friday and adding another 9 on Saturday.

This weekend, it might just boil down to who can keep the errors to a minimum. Shawn Olmstead’s squad has struggled to find serving and attacking consistency at times this year, something that has prevented them from being able to finish comebacks in several sets. UCLA is perhaps even more volatile though, ranking 3rd nationally in aces per set while at the same time tallying more than 50 more serving errors than the Cougars.

The first match is set to begin at 8 p.m. on Friday night, played at Pauley Pavillion and broadcast on PAC-12 Live. The second match will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, played at the John Wooden Center and broadcast on UCLA Live Stream-2.

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