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Cougars taking nothing for granted

Published April 14, 2017 10:40 pm

BYU men's volleyball • Only sure road to NCAAs? Win MPSF tourney, starting with match vs. Stanford.
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Provo • Bestowed with the No. 1 RPI in the country, a No. 3 national ranking and a regular-season co-championship in the toughest men's volleyball league in the land, BYU should be a lock for next month's NCAA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

But the Cougars (23-3) aren't taking anything for granted, coach Shawn Olmstead and setter Leo Durkin said Tuesday, as they begin play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) conference tournament. BYU opens the tourney on Saturday night against Stanford (13-12) at Smith Fieldhouse.

The tournament's winner gets the MPSF's automatic bid into the NCAAs.

"People enjoy analyzing that, but when we say we don't think or talk about it, really, we don't," Olmstead said. "Because I just feel like there's still too much to play for, and you just never want to leave it in the hands of someone else, as the saying goes, or however you want to put it."

Six teams are invited to the national championship tournament at Ohio State, which happens to be the defending champion, having defeated BYU 3-0 in the finals last year at Penn State. The top two seeds get byes into the semifinals, which is BYU's goal after the Cougars tied No. 1-ranked Long Beach State (24-3) for the MPSF regular-season crown.

The 49ers got the No. 1 seed for conference tournament because they won five sets, to BYU's three, when the league powers split a pair of matches in Provo last month. Long Beach will host the semifinals and finals next Thursday and Saturday if it beats eighth-seeded USC on Saturday at the Walter Pyramid.

"The MPSF is an interesting beast in and of itself," Durkin said. "It is very competitive. Just the way the MPSF is structured, you never know what is going to happen. You just have to win. That's what it comes down to. The team that wins is in [the NCAA Tournament]."

If BYU wins, it will play either No. 3 Hawaii or No. 6 Pepperdine next Thursday. If Long Beach State loses Saturday, the next highest seed would host the semifinals and finals, presumably BYU.

"The guys want more, and the guys want to continue playing," Olmstead said. "We believe we've got a lot more in us, so I've told the guys, nothing is given from here on out, and if you [don't] believe that, or people around you are saying that, you need to do everything to stop the chatter and understand that we've got work to do or else your season could be over."

The Cougars bounced back from March 25's 3-0 loss to LBSU with 3-1 and 3-0 wins over UC Santa Barbara last weekend and are relatively healthy. Junior opposite hitter Ben Patch is slowly returning to form after a groin injury caused him to miss 11 matches in the middle of the season and led the Cougars with 14 kills last Saturday.

"I don't think he is at full strength," Olmstead said of Patch. "I am certain of that, actually. So he's got to get back into sync, there. … He is working on that."

Patch has hinted that this will probably be his final season at BYU, as he looks to turn pro this summer. Senior Jake Langlois was the only BYU player named to the All-MPSF First Team, while juniors Brenden Sander and Price Jarman picked up Second Team honors. Patch and Durkin were named All-MPSF Honorable Mention.

Friday, BYU announced the signing of two new recruits: middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira of Maringa, Brazil, and outside hitter Garrett Halsey of Yorba Linda, Calif.

drew@sltrib.com Twitter: @drewjay —

Stanford at BYU

P MPSF men's volleyball tournament quarterfinal, at Smith Fieldhouse, Provo, Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV • BYUtv






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