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.

Everybody is playing for something in the final week of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season.

All seven teams make the upcoming MPSF Tournament, with the regular-season champion earning a bye to the semifinals. The final week is their last chance to jockey for position.

With one match to play the 11th-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team (6-5) can finish anywhere from third to sixth in the standings, which is critical when it comes to the MPSF Tournament. Third or fourth means the Cougars can play the opening round at the Smith Fieldhouse, where they are 10-3. Fifth or sixth means a road match, where BYU is 1-7 overall and 0-5 in league play.

For one day last week, the Cougars were in a three-way tie for first in conference play at 6-3 with UCLA and Pepperdine. But losses on the road to Concordia Irvine (3-2) and USC (3-0) – BYU has lost four in a row overall – dropped the Cougars into their current predicament.

Mathematically, BYU still has an outside shot at tying for a conference title since all three teams above in the standings – Pepperdine (7-3), UCLA (7-3) and USC (6-4) – have two matches to play. But those teams also own tiebreakers advantages against the Cougars, so the more realistic finish would be to win at Grand Canyon on Thursday to secure the No. 4 tournament seed at a home match in the opening round.

“There’s still a conference tournament we can compete in and be a part of,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “It’s just matter of finding that confidence as a group. I feel like we get ourselves in positions where we get stuck in a certain rotation or moment. We’ve struggled to figure out a way to get of that hole.

“It’s also been a struggle for us to win a conference match on the road. What it comes down to is we’ve got to take care of our business. We need to take care of our stuff and let the rest kind of unfold.”

BYU topped Grand Canyon 3-1 in Provo on Feb. 23. The Antelopes are 2-8 in conference play but 8-4 at home this season.

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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