Provo • BYU’s men’s volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year and fifth time in six years, but the path to the program’s first national championship since 2004 will not be easy.
Most likely, the Cougars will have to beat UCLA on its home floor in the semifinals to advance to the finals.
A day after knocking off the No. 2-ranked Bruins 3-1 in the MPSF finals at Smith Fieldhouse, No. 4-ranked BYU (22-6) on Sunday was awarded the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals of the NCAA tourney, which will be contested at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.
UCLA (24-7) was awarded a No. 3 seed, and will meet No. 6 seed Harvard on May 1 in the first round of the seven-team tournament. The winner will advance to play BYU, which lost in the 2016 and 2017 national championship games to Ohio State.
“We’ve been there before, and we have some [different] guys this year, but we’re all-in for the next couple of weeks,” said senior setter Leo Durkin, who made the MPSF all-tournament team with Gabi Garcia Fernandez and MVP Brenden Sander.
BYU’s semifinal match against Harvard (the EIVA conference champion) or UCLA is at 8:30 p.m. MDT on May 3. The championship match is May 5 at 5 p.m. MDT and will be televised by ESPNU.
The Cougars will probably be cheering for Harvard, seeing as how they were swept 3-0 by UCLA the last time the MPSF rivals met at Pauley Pavilion. Saturday night, UCLA won the first set 25-17 before BYU reeled off wins in three straight sets.
“There is still more work to do and we are excited that we get to continue to do that,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said.
Long Beach State (26-1) won the Big West Conference tournament Saturday and earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Defending champion Ohio State (23-5) won the MIVA conference and will host King (Tenn.) on April 26 in Columbus, Ohio. The winner of that play-in match will meet UC Irvine (21-9) in a first-round matchup. LBSU awaits that first-round winner in the first semifinal on May 3.