If you haven't watched the 2012 BYU men's volleyball team yet, you should. These guys are putting on an exciting show for fans every match.
While BYU has a powerhouse team virtually every year, the team this season is especially strong. Here are some of the components that make this BYU volleyball team special:
1. The best college volleyball player in the country is on the court for BYU. Sophomore sensation Taylor Sander is a beast. The kid is a phenom. He reminds me of a young, skinny Karch Kiraly. The kid jumps out of the gym, regularly dents the floor with devastating hitting both from the front and back row, bombs jump serves on opponents for a few aces per match, helps with the stifling BYU blocking, and passes on a dime. Expect to see the Sandman in the Olympics for Team USA over the next decade or two.
2. An All-American opposite hitter in senior Robb Stowell. As if having Sander was not enough, BYU has another bomber on the right side they can go to at any time. Stowell might not be Sander overall but he does serious damage with his big arm.
3. Two massive men in the middle in Futi Tavana and Russ Lavaja. If the BYU setters don't want to go with the cannons on the outside they can always go with these two huge middle blockers. Both know how to crush the quick sets in the middle and bounce that ball into the rafters. But more importantly both know how to put up an intimidating wall on defense that consistently roofs opponents hits, sending them back straight down. Tavana is BYU's all-time leading blocker in the rally era.
4. A new coach who is the son of a legend. BYU's interim head coach from last year is still on the team but new head coach Chris McGowan is the son of legendary volleyball coach Carl McGowan (who led BYU to titles in his tenure as head coach as well). The new coaching staff seems to really have things dialed in.
5. Solid setting and depth. Add to the mix two solid setters and a lot of quality guys that can come in and contribute in a big way and BYU is a very hard team to beat.
BYU was ranked #1 in the country early on this season but after Taylor Sander broke his hand and had to sit out a month or so BYU lost a few matches. Sander is back and BYU has been firing on all cylinders for the most part recently. The only hiccup was a loss in 5 sets to Long Beach last week. But with BYU sweeping CS-Northridge this weekend and both Irvine and UCLA dropping matches over the weekend BYU is likely to be ranked #1 in both the MPSF and in the national polls next week.
A berth in the NCAA men's volleyball final four is not a lock yet though. BYU will need to beat UCLA in two matches this coming weekend and then beat Penn State twice at home the following week to sew up the MPSF title and assure themselves an at-large bid. If BYU doesn't win the MPSF regular season title the Cougs might need to win the MPSF tournament to be a lock for the final four.
The good news for the team is they control their own destiny when it comes to getting to the final four. The good news for BYU sports fans is there are 4 regular season matches left and then the tournaments, so April should be a good month for watching the best thing going in BYU sports right now.
Have you been watching this BYU volleyball team already? Sound off on your thoughts on the team and the season in the comments.