Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, April 24, 2001


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Brigham Young
the favorite in
MPSF playoffs

4th-seeded Hawaii looks for
revenge against the Cougars

By Grace Wen

There were no upsets in the first round of this year's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs. All four of the top seeds advanced to this week's semifinals in Provo, Utah.

But that doesn't mean there couldn't be an upset or two at Smith Fieldhouse as the automatic berth into next week's NCAA final four is decided.

Here's a look at how each of the teams could fare:


Seed: 1
AVCA ranking:
Record: 20-3 overall, 14-3 MPSF
MPSF playoff appearances: 7

Home court advantage will be a huge factor for BYU, as the top-ranked team in the nation averages 2,811 fans in Smith Fieldhouse, a gym with a capacity crowd of 5,000.

The last time the Cougars hosted the MPSF tournament, BYU ended up winning the tournament, the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and the national title.

Setter Hector Lebron leads a BYU squad that has lost only three matches all year and only one at home. Lebron sets the nation's leading attacking team (.389) and mixes up the offense well enough to leave opponents clueless as to who his next receiver will be.

The Cougars have depth at every position, with middle blockers Matt Olsen and Scott Bunker anchoring the middle and Mac Wilson, a starter on the 1999 title-winning team, the first off the bench.

At outside hitter, BYU has a rotation of four who have been used to demolish and wear down teams. Jonathan Alleman and Joaquin Acosta start, but Jaime Mayol and Luka Slabe have made solid contributions off the bench.

Opposite Mike Wall averages a team-leading 4.53 kills per game and has torched teams from almost every rotation on the court.

The only thing not in BYU's favor? Long Beach State.


Seed: 2
AVCA ranking: 3
Record: 17-6, 12-5
MPSF playoff appearances: 7

The 49ers reached the semifinals after a sweep of seventh-seeded Pepperdine.

Long Beach State is a veteran squad with three senior starters -- David McKienzie, Jim Polster, and Matt Prosser -- from the team that reached the NCAA title match in 1999.

These seniors have accomplished much, but championships of any sort have eluded them. Last year, the 49ers were eliminated at home in the first round of the playoffs by Loyola Marymount after claiming the No. 1 seed in the MPSF tourney.

The year before, The Beach lost to USC in the semifinals of the conference playoffs but were given the at-large berth into the final four. They reached the NCAA final, where the 49ers lost to BYU.

The 49ers have momentum on their side, riding a six-match win streak into the tournament, the longest of any of the teams left in the MPSF playoffs. The 49ers are playing for the extra incentive of being in the final four at home, in the Pyramid.

And Long Beach State knows it can win in Smith Fieldhouse. The only loss BYU suffered at home this year was against the 49ers. McKienzie, the senior opposite, has played some of his best matches against the Cougars, including posting 31 kills during Long Beach's win at BYU this year and a record-setting 58-kill performance on March 19, 1999.

But the 49ers have to beat UCLA to reach the MPSF finals and BYU has to win against Hawaii.


Seed: 3
AVCA ranking: 4
Record: 21-7, 12-5
MPSF playoff appearances: 8

The Bruins barely squeaked by Stanford in the first round, but tradition and history are on UCLA's side. UCLA has won 18 national championships and head coach Al Scates has notched more victories (1,016) than any other coach in collegiate volleyball.

Scates is also notorious for training his team to peak at this point in the season.

Seniors Adam Naeve and Mark Williams have NCAA championship rings and would like to close out the season with another one, but the Bruins must advance to at least the finals to stand a chance of reaching the NCAA. The duo make different contributions to the team with Naeve dominating at the net, while Williams is the team's leading passer. Both have blistering jump serves that put opposing teams' offenses out of sync.

Earlier this season, UCLA and Long Beach State split matches, with each team winning in their opponent's gym. The Bruins lead the overall series 64-19. If the Bruins advance to the MPSF finals, it could be any team's match.


Seed: 4
AVCA ranking: 2
Record: 18-6, 12-5
MPSF playoff appearances: 7

The Warriors are coming off a record-setting win against USC. UH blocked a season-high 27 balls and demolished USC's offense. Hawaii looks to avenge the two costly losses it suffered against BYU two weeks ago when the Cougars were the No. 2 team in the nation. Hawaii lost the No. 1 spot in the polls, as well as the likely No. 1 seed and hosting duties for the MPSF Tournament.

The Achilles heel for Hawaii is winning in Provo. The Warriors have only won once in the last 10 matches hosted by BYU. If the Warriors beat the Cougars, Hawaii stands an excellent chance of winning the MPSF, having beaten UCLA once this year and barely losing to Long Beach State when starters Kimo Tuyay and Costas Theocharidis were out of the lineup due to illness.

For the Warriors to beat the Cougars, they'll need to hold leads and close out a game, something they were unable to do against BYU two weeks ago. Hawaii is not spectacular or flashy, but the Warriors are successful with their consistency. They need to avoid the ups-and-downs that have led to erratic performances within a match.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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