Men's Volleyball: Chasing a National Title

If BYU is to move on, Taylor Sander will be key. - Photo by Todd Wakefield/BYU Photo

After riding high through most of the season, BYU Men's Volleyball stumbled down the stretch and is looking for redemption in the postseason.

BYU Volleyball started the season with lofty expectations. Starting the season ranked #2 in the country, having just lost to UC Irvine in the NCAA championship game, many expected the Cougars to have another strong season, and they did. Despite loosing their final four games of the regular season, the Cougars amassed an 18-8 record going undefeated at home, and securing the top seed in the conference tournament.

The last four games of the season were disappointing for the other wise high-flying cougars. The first two came at No. 10 Hawaii, which is always a tough trip. Then BYU traveled to UC Santa Barbra and UCLA the following weekend and weren't able to pull themselves back together, despite beating both those teams just two weeks prior.

Their 18 wins came in six-match streaks. They lost their first two, then won six in a row. They lost a match, then won six in a row, and then lost another. Finally they won six more, but lost their final four. Ending the season on a losing streak, the Cougars are focusing on redemption in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Tournament this weekend. If they can start the MPSF tournament with a win, and get another streak of six... they will win the national championship.

One of BYU's biggest advantages going into the post season is home court advantage. By locking up the top seed in the conference tournament, BYU earned the right to host their tournament games which just may be the difference between a first round loss and a conference championship. The Cougars have played phenomenally well in the Smith Fieldhouse, not just being unabated, but also not losing a single set at home from January 24th until March 28th, a streak of 21 straight sets. The Cougars will only need 12 straight set wins if they want to win the conference tournament.

BYU has been led by senior Taylor Sander who was named the conference Player of the Year (the first player ever to win that title in back-to-back years) and to the All-Conference First Team (he earned First Team honors all four years at BYU). Sander led the cougars with 435 kills and a .327 hitting percentage. During this season he also got 44 service aces which lifted his career total to 171, a BYU record. His 1672 career kills are also a BYU record in the rally-scoring era (since 1999).

Other Cougars receiving conference awards include Devin Young (2nd team), Michael Hatch (Honorable Mention), and Tim Dobbert (All-Freshman Team).

BYU will start the post season this Saturday (April 19th) against the USC Trojans. If the Cougars move on they will host the winner of UCLA and UC Santa Barbra next Thursday. The winner of the MPSF Tournament gets an auto-bid into the NCAA Championship and it is very important for BYU to start this postseason strong.

Keep an eye on Vanquish the Foe for updates on their post season tournament games, and be sure to cheer them on, GO COUGARS!!!

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