BYU men's volleyball vs UC Irvine 6

BYU junior outside hitter Zach Eschenberg serves the ball against UC Irvine in the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on March 8, 2019.

With just three matches left in the regular season, the BYU men’s volleyball team is playing for the chance to host a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoff game at home.

The Cougars are second in the MPSF standings, a ½ game behind UCLA and a ½ game ahead of Pepperdine. The race is tight and BYU needs to win all three matches to stay ahead of the pack.

The degree of difficulty is steep: All three matches are on the road.

The 10th-ranked Cougars travel to Concordia Irvine on Thursday. The Eagles are just 1-7 in MPSF play but have a flair for the dramatic. Earlier this season, Concordia swept UC Irvine 3-0, the first time it had ever beaten the Anteaters. Last season, the Eagles — led by former BYU player and coach Shawn Patchell — shocked the Cougars 3-2 in Provo.

On Tuesday, Concordia lost at home to Hawaii 3-0.

On Saturday, BYU travels to Los Angeles to play No. 9 USC. The Trojans are 4-4 in MPSF play but pulled off the biggest upset of the season last Saturday, sweeping previously undefeated and No. 1 Long Beach State.

The Cougars end the regular season on April 4 at Grand Canyon.

Hosting its own invitational didn’t turn out so well for BYU last week. The Cougars struggled before edging Princeton 3-2 in the first match then fell to McKendree 3-1. BYU was resting a good portion of its starting lineup in that match. On the third night, No. 2 Hawaii crushed the Cougars in three straight sets and ascended to the No. 1 spot in the polls due to Long Beach State’s loss.

Sophomore Gabi Garcia Fernandez continues to lead BYU in hitting with 4.30 kills per set and also has 27 service aces.

Darnell Dickson, who has been covering sports in Utah since 1989 (with a detour to Nebraska for three years somewhere in there), is currently the BYU football columnist and BYU men’s basketball beat writer.

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