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NCAA.com | February 25, 2014

NC Preview: BYU returns from 13 days off with top-10 matchups

PROVO, Utah -- Second-ranked BYU returns to the Smith Fieldhouse for the first time in a month, hosting No. 7 Southern California and No. 4 Pepperdine Friday and Saturday, respectively.

BYU (10-3, 10-1 MPSF) held onto its No. 2 ranking after a bye week. The Cougars reached second place after defeating then-No. 8 Stanford in a five-set thriller on the road Feb. 15. BYU is No. 1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

The Cougars are led by Taylor Sander, who is now No. 3 at BYU for career kills during the rally-scoring era with 1,451. Sander averages 4.46 kills per set this season, good for No. 4 in the nation.

Michael Hatch is No. 3 in the country for blocks per set with 1.49. Leading on the back row is Jaylen Reyes with 1.69 digs per set.

Southern California’s back row is led by Henry Cassiday with 3.10 digs per set. Andy Benesh leads the nation in hitting percentage with a .518 clip, and Micah Christenson is No. 2 nationally in assists per set with 11.70.

The Trojans (9-5, 8-5 MPSF) will face Cal Baptist Wednesday on the road. USC comes off two wins against Hawaii at home.

The last time BYU met USC, the Cougars won 3-2 on the road on Feb. 1.

Pepperdine (8-3, 8-3 MPSF) is led by Josh Taylor with 4.46 kills per set, good for No. 3 in the nation. Nikola Antonijevic averages 1.43 blocks per set, good for No. 4 nationally.

The Waves will play at California Baptist Thursday before traveling to Utah. Pepperdine hosted Cal Baptist on Saturday and defeated the Lancers 3-1.

The last time BYU faced Pepperdine, the Waves pulled off the win in Malibu, Calif. 3-2 on Jan. 31.

Top-ranked Loyola Chicago carries its 11-game win streak into two road matches as it takes on Quincy and Lindenwood. ... No. 3 UCLA will follow up its exciting five-set win on Monday against Stanford with a trip to Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors this weekend. ... No. 5 Long Beach State will play No. 8 Stanford followed by a matchup with Pacific, while the Carinal will also play Cal State Northridge. ... Sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara faces ninth-ranked UC Irvine and UC San Diego. ... Penn State joins the top 10 on the heels of an 12-match win streak and will play ay Princeton and George Mason.

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