The biggest weekend for BYU men's volleyball this season is taking place on the biggest stage: Los Angeles, California. The Cougars take on the UCLA Bruins in a battle for the number one seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs. Each team controls its own destiny in a winner-take-all weekend and it’s only fitting for this type of math up to be played in the John Wooden Center.
Both teams have a lot of momentum coming into this game, but I think UCLA might have the slight edge. This is the last weekend at home for the team's legendary head coach, Al Scates. He’s been a part of the UCLA program for 50 years and won 19 national championships. With that said, UCLA is going to have all of the pressure. They want to send their coach on top and they will feel that there is no room for error.
This helps BYU because they’ll be able to play their game. The key for them is Joe Kauliakamoa. He needs to hit all his sets. If he’s off, then those pin hitters will be off as well.
We can expect a great game from Taylor Sander, but what about Josue Rivera and Robb Stowell? Rivera is coming off a sprained ankle from last weekend against Cal State Northridge. He might not be a hundred percent, which means there could be a lot of attacking errors. Stowell is not playing like did last season and part of that might be because of his injury during the off-season. If the Bruins are able to shut down the hitters, then look for it to be a long night for Sander and the Cougars.
It all comes down to this, and if BYU could sweep the second place team in the MPSF then they have a legitimate argument to be playing in L.A. for the NCAA Championships. If the Cougars fail to win this weekend, then they need to win out in the playoffs to claim the MPSF’s automatic bid.