Cougars third seed • With victory, BYU advances to MPSP semifinals.
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Provo • Revenge better be sweet Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse.
When Long Beach State upset BYU earlier this month, it effectively sank the Cougars chances of winning the regular-season conference championship and the right to host the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball tournament championship weekend.
The Cougars, by finishing third, do get to host a quarterfinal match Saturday at 7 p.m. against sixth seed Long Beach State. A victory moves BYU onto the semifinals at host USC on April 26 with the championship match set for April 28.
But No. 4-ranked BYU (23-6, 17-5) first must get by the 49ers (15-14, 10-12).
"We've certainly seen that they have the potential to defeat us so we aren't approaching this lightly," BYU coach Chris McGown said. "We're prepared and working hard. The guys have put together great practices this week."
BYU prepared for Saturday's match by pummeling No. 7 Penn State in a pair of nonconference matches, 3-1 and 3-0.
The Cougars have been arguably the best team in the country at the net with their blocking defense and myriad offensive weapons.
Taylor Sander leads BYU with 386 kills, while Robb Stowell (364), Josue Rivera (244), Russ Lavaja (172) and Futi Tavana (158) provide plenty of options for setter Joe Kauliakamoa. Meanwhile, with Tavana, BYU's all-time blocks and block assist leader in the rally scoring era, the Cougars lead the nation with 3.2 blocks a set.
While BYU played Penn State, the MPSF played out its final weekend, one that finished with BYU, Stanford and UC Irvine locked in a three-way tie for second, a game behind USC. BYU, via a tie-break, placed third. Had BYU tied with USC, it would have won the conference championship, having defeated the Trojans.
"I thought our weekend against Penn State went well," McGown said. "Offensively, we were great and defensively we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, and with those opportunities we made plays and did the things we wanted to do. I thought we put together some really good volleyball...and we're looking forward to continuing that against Long Beach this weekend."
Twitter:@tribmarty The Cougars are averaging 3.2 blocks per set to lead the nation.
Russ Lavaja leads BYU with 157 blocks and is third all-time in schhol history for total blocks.
Long Beach State upset BYU 3-2 on April 7.