Provo • Two weeks ago, UCLA’s men’s volleyball team got revenge for a 3-0 loss to BYU earlier in the season and eight-straight losses to the Cougars overall with a 3-0 sweep at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Aside from the Bruins exorcising some demons against BYU, it was a fairly meaningless match because the Cougars had already clinched the top seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
Saturday’s rematch at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse will be much more significant. The rubber match between the longtime foes will be for the MPSF tournament championship, after the top-seeded Cougars (21-6) swept USC on Thursday night and No. 2 UCLA (24-6) rolled past Concordia Irvine 3-1 in the first semifinal.
“You grow up watching college volleyball, and BYU-UCLA, they have had a lot of big-time matchups,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “And here is another one.”
The champion will get the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament May 1-5 at UCLA’s own Pauley Pavilion, but the loser will almost surely receive an at-large bid, seeing as how BYU is second in the NCAA Men’s Volleyball RPI and UCLA is third.
Still, Olmstead said his team is not taking anything for granted.
“We have to win matches,” he said before the sweep of USC. “I kid you not. We have not looked at that, because if we start looking and talking about that, the kids, their ears are going to perk up. We are not going to do that. Let’s keep getting better and better. We want these opportunities to play and improve and get better and so I don’t feel comfortable [saying they’re in the NCAAs].”
Part of the reason for Olmstead’s wariness is that there is a new, powerful men’s volleyball league — the Big West — this season that boasts the top team in the land, No. 1-ranked Long Beach State. The 49ers were 24-1 heading into Friday night’s Big West semifinal against Cal State Northridge.
“With everything going around nationally, you can’t ever feel comfortable that you can predict exactly what is going to unfold and what is going to happen,” Olmstead said. “We have done a good job, but there is a lot more left to play for, that’s for sure.”
An announced crowd of just 2,071 watched BYU rout USC 25-17, 25-17, 25-22 Thursday, and Olmstead was left wanting more.
“Here we go,” he said. “It is nice to be here and [we] beg and plead for all the fans of BYU volleyball — let’s fill this place up, let’s get it rocking and support these boys competing for a conference championship. It is against UCLA, one of the most historic programs in NCAA Division I men’s college volleyball.”
MPSF VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
BYU (21-6) vs. UCLA (24-6)
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where • Smith Fieldhouse, Provo
TV • BYUtv