Tonight the top ranked men's volleyball team hosts #7 Long Beach State at 9pm ET/7pm MT on BYUtv and byutvsports.com.
The Cougars (5-1, 4-0 MPSF) are the only undefeated team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation while the 49ers (7-3, 5-2 MPSF) are in second place by half a game. The Cougars can continue to create space between themselves and the rest of the conference with a victory. Saturday BYU hosts Cal State Northridge (no TV).
BYU is coming off a bye week and is tied for fewest MPSF matches played of any team in the conference at four. After two days off last week the Cougars had their "best practice of the week" yesterday according to senior setter Ryan Boyce (or "El Bigote") and are ready for "The Beach". Boyce, by the way, just trimmed the 'stache yesterday. It's in mid-season form.
Being ranked #1 is not as important as being #1 in the conference standings, but BYU has the luxury of both right now. It's early in the season, but it's going well.
The 49ers beat Cal Baptist on Tuesday in four sets and are led by junior Taylor Crabb. Crabb was on the All-MPSF 2nd team last year and is a pre-season All-American according to Off the Block. He's shorter for an outside hitter (6'0'') but uses his beach skills to hit off the block and can dig with the best of them. Dalton Ammerman (OH), Jeff Ornee (OPP), and Colten Echave (MB) also bring some offensive firepower.
In fact he and BYU junior outside hitter Taylor Sander are good friends and have played beach volleyball together in several tournaments. They also played on the USA junior national team together for a few years. They are both leaned on heavily for their respective teams. By comparison Crabb receives 31% of all sets while Sander receives 30%. Expect a lot of sets to these guys tonight.
Crabb (#5) and Sander (#15) on the USA junior national team in Brazil at the Junior World Championships, 2011. Photo courtesy of FIVB.
In the Cougars last match against UC San Diego Sander etched his name into the BYU record books with his 92nd and 93rd aces of his career. He is now second all-time at BYU in aces and first in the rally era. That's quite the accomplishment for a junior six matches into the season. He'll shatter the career record, one of several records he'll probably own before all is said and done.
Meanwhile senior middle blocker Russ Lavaja continues to climb the charts. He is 6th all-time in total blocks (507), 6th in block assists (463), 5th in solo blocks (44), and is 9th in blocks per set (1.44). He is currently the top blocker in the MPSF at 1.64 blocks per set.
The last time the 49ers played in the Smith Fieldhouse was in the 2012 MPSF quarterfinal. BYU won the first two sets, then LBSU pushed it to five where BYU went on an 8-1 run to start the set and won, advancing to the MPSF semifinal's. Watch it here.
Alan Knipe returns as head coach of the seventh ranked 49ers after coaching the United States men's indoor team to a quarterfinal appearance in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
I'm anxious to see BYU perform in another tough conference test. It's been two weeks since then #3 BYU beat #1 UC Irvine in four sets in the Fieldhouse (Watch Here). The Cougars play all 13 MPSF teams at home this season and LBSU is the fourth of the year.
Friday at 1:30pm MT I'll be on "Cougar Sports" with Alema Harrington and Ben Criddle talking about the men's volleyball team. Listen in Utah on 960 AM, 97.5 FM, or online here.
Steve Vail, Kory Aldous, and I will be on the call tonight at 9pm ET/7pm MT for the #1 BYU vs. #7 Long Beach State match-up on BYUtv and byutvsports.com. Interact with us by using the hashtag #byutvsports on twitter for a chance to see your tweets on the screen or referenced verbally.