BYU Men’s Volleyball prepares for pesky Pepperdine

The No. 8 Cougars will take on the No. 7 Waves on Friday and Saturday night in the Smith Fieldhouse in a critical MPSF clash.

The Cougs last played on March 10th and 11th, when they bested then No. 15 the Ohio State University 3-0 and 3-2. Luke Benson, Miks Ramanis, and Trent Moser led the Cougars with 32, 29, and 25 kills respectively, while stand-in setter Noa Haine racked up 79 assists.

Haine was playing in lieu of senior setter Heath Hughes–the Cougars’ season assist leader–who had missed the previous 4 matches with a broken finger. Heath returned in several sets vs the Buckeyes, mainly to serve, but did end up recording 5 assists and a dig in the Saturday contest. After an additional fortnight of rest, it wouldn’t be surprising to see even more of Hughes this weekend.

Regardless of lineup, the Cougars have proved impossible to beat at home so far, having topped the likes of McKendree, Lewis, Fairleigh Dickinson, UCSB, and the Ohio State by a combined 24 sets to 5. Cougar nation been instrumental in amassing such an impressive home record, posting an impressive average attendance of 3,838 spectators per match.

The 14-8 Waves will roll into to Provo looking to break that streak behind their nationally ranked offense. Head coach Jonathan Winder has concocted a top 10 offense in almost every measurable statistic, including hitting percentage (5th nationally at .355), kills per set (2nd, 13.2), and assists per set (2nd, 12.35). Just to put that into perspective, BYU ranks 17th (.291), 24th (11.91), and 18th (11.28) respectively.

Pepperdine’s offensive juggernaut is led by seniors Akin Akinwumi and Jaylen Jasper, who aren’t just the best on the team, but are also among the nation’s elite. Akinwumi is third nationally in hitting percentage at .476, while Jasper isn’t far behind at ninth, hitting an even .400 on the year.

Jasper also ranks second in kills per set, averaging a whopping 5.01. For another dose of perspective, Jacob Pasteur of Ohio State–visibly the best player on the court in those matches against the Buckeyes two weeks ago–averages only 3.71. Needless to say, the Cougars are going to have their hands full. Literally.

Sophomore Teon Taylor–coming off an MPSF Defensive Player of the Week award last week–will have to continue his dominance inside to give the Cougs a chance at slowing Pepperdine down; Taylor is averaging 1.29 blocks per set, including recording 7 or more in 4 of the last 5 matches. Another player to watch for BYU will be the aforementioned outside hitter Benson, who has posted double digit kills in every match since his return to the starting lineup in late February.

With a pair of wins, the Cougars–currently 2-4 in conference play–could move up into a tie for third place in the MPSF, which would set them up nicely for a more favorable draw in the conference tournament; a couple of losses on the other hand could all but cement a bottom-half finish for Olmstead and company. The Waves are a step ahead of the Cougars at 4-2 so far, and can start a push for a top-2 seed in the MPSF tournament with a couple of wins this weekend.

This struggle for standings superiority starts Friday at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse and ends Saturday at the same time and place. You can catch the action live in person or on the BYUtv app.

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