Modesty is best policy
BYU knows not to get too confident when it comes to rival UCI
LOS ANGELES -- This is the spot the members of the BYU's team thought they would be in the entire year and now to live up to all of the accolades, they need to win just one more game.
The No. 1-seeded Cougars (26-4) are playing UC Irvine on Saturday for the NCAA championship and if BYU is going to complete the season many thought they should have, they can’t lose sight of who is before them.
While BYU was the top-ranked team for 11 weeks of the season, including the final seven, UCI was the preseason No. 1 and held the top spot for part of the season.
“The two best teams in the country in pre-season, I think they nailed it when they said it was going to be the two of us and here we are,” freshman opposite Ben Patch said.
While BYU is the favorite because of its ranking, the players are not overconfident.
“UCI is an awesome team, they've got a bunch of really good players and they know how to play a long, deep match,” senior middle blocker Russ Lavaja said. “It's not going to be a quick one, I don't think. I think it's going [be] to long and I think it's going to be a good one.”
If any of the Cougars had any thoughts of overconfidence, Coach Chris McGown worked diligently to erase that mindset.
“I don't think we've ever been overconfident during the course of the season, so it isn't something that I see in our team,” McGown said. “Certainly, if they were overconfident we will remind them of the Hawaii match that we played in the quarterfinals of the MPSFs. We were a one seed and they were an eight seed. We were supposed to kind of roll them and they gave us everything we could handle down to the last point. So we will talk about that a little bit and say, 'remember what happened there?' We can't lose focus.”
Even defeating UCI twice during the regular season doesn’t give BYU a glaring advantage, according to McGown.
“We just look at it like it is a whole new match,” McGown said. “Obviously we can take a little bit of confidence that we can beat them, but it is in the back of our mind. We are just trying to stay humble and hungry and have the appropriate amount of respect for how good they are.”
The first match the Cougars played at home and won in four sets and two months later needed five sets to get past the Anteaters.
“I think it is the national championship match and whoever is going to show up is going to win,” junior outside hitter Taylor Sander said. “Everything in the past is done with. We are just going to have to play our volleyball and I think it’s going to be an exciting match. I think it’s going to be a battle and we can’t wait for that. It’s so hard to get to this point.”
The Cougars know all about just getting to the semifinals. Though they have won three championships (1999, 2001, 2004) this is their first tournament appearance in nine years.
But the familiarity between the two teams can be an edge.
“I think if there is any advantage we know some of their tendencies,” Patch said. “But I think it’s going to go down to executing our game plan. I think coming in to the championship we need to play our brand of volleyball. We don’t need to do anything spectacular. UCI is the defending champion and the hot team and it’s just going to take our game to beat them.”