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BYU Athletics | January 31, 2014

NC Top 10 Preview: BYU hits road for two top-five battles

PROVO, Utah -- Fourth-ranked BYU gears up for two top-five road matches this week, one at No. 3 Pepperdine on Friday and the other at No. 5 Southern California on Saturday.

The Cougars (6-2, 6-0 MPSF) look to build on a six-match win streak that put them tied for first place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with UCLA (which is tied at No. 1 nationally). BYU took down then-No. 6 Stanford in four sets at the Smith Fieldhouse Friday before sweeping Pacific at home Saturday.

Senior outside hitter Taylor Sander leads the Cougars with 4.55 kills per set (good for fourth place in the nation). Also averaging 1.48 digs, he leads the nation with 5.55 points per set and is No. 5 for aces per set at 0.66. Tyler Heap helps out on offense with an 11.15 assists average. On defense, senior blocker Devin Young contributes 1.28 blocks per set, while libero Jaylen Reyes has 1.90 digs per set.

BYU is in the top 10 in four national statistical categories, coming in eighth for aces per set (1.52) and blocks per set (2.76), and ninth in hitting percentage (.301). The Cougars are fourth in win-loss percentage at .750.

Pepperdine (4-1, 4-1 MPSF) comes off a 3-2 road loss to Long Beach State on Friday, its first loss of the season.

Leading the Waves’ offense is Josh Taylor, who also leads the nation with 4.86 kills per set. Nikola Antonijevic contributes 1.60 blocks per set, good for second place in the nation, while setter Matt West tallies 11.52 assists per set, good for fifth place in the nation.

Pepperdine is in the top five nationally in five statistics categories -- blocks (first at 3.52 per set), kills (third at 13.76 per set), digs (third at 11.57 per set), win-loss percentage (third at .800) and assists (fourth at 12.90 per set).

USC (4-2, 3-2 MPSF) fell to Cal State Northridge 3-0 on the road Friday. The Trojans host Cal Baptist on Thursday prior to hosting BYU Saturday.

Henry Cassiday leads the USC defense and is second in the nation with 3.50 digs per set.  Lucas Yoder leads on offense with 4.05 kills per set, hitting a .345 clip. No. 1 in the nation for assists per set, setter Micah Christenson averages 12.23.

USC is No. 1 in the nation for kills per set (14.95) and assists per set (14.18), and is No. 2 in digs per set (14.00).

Notes from the rest of the top 10:
UCLA will have a rematch on Saturday with No. 8 UC Irvine, which it swept on Monday. ... Loyola Chicago, tied for first with UCLA, is on a four-game win streak after beating then-No. 13 Harvard last weekend. ... No. 9 UC Santa Barbara hosts No. 11 Hawaii for two games this weekend. ... Lewis returns to the top 10 having won five in a row since a loss to Stanford.

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