BYU Men's volleyball vs. Ohio State 18

Brigham Young University head coach Shawn Olmstead talks with an official during the Cougars' season-opener against the Ohio State Buckeyes held Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The Smith Fieldhouse will be a welcome site for the BYU men’s volleyball team on Thursday.

The Cougars opened the season with a pair of sweeps at home and rose as high as No. 3 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. But after winning two matches in the Midwest against Penn State and Saint Francis, BYU went on a four-match losing streak, getting swept in three straight matches for the first time in 25 years. A 3-1 loss at No. 4 UCLA dropped the Cougars record to 4-4.

“I learned that we go through some stretches where we’ve got to be better at not hurting ourselves,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We’re hurting ourselves a lot and the guys know that. There have been just certain situations here and there, a point or two on the other side and we seem to get rattled more than I believed we would. They (the opponents) have been able to put on a lot of pressure, and two points becomes four or five and that’s tough to overcome.”

The Cougars, which are No. 8 in the latest polls, plays their first home match in more than a month on Thursday against Concordia-Irvine and also host No. 14 USC in the Fieldhouse on Saturday.

BYU is a young team with only one senior and it’s been the serve-receive and passing that have caused them to stumble early in the season.

In the four-match losing streak, BYU had 46 reception errors, an average of 11.5 per match. By comparison, the Cougars averaged just 4.3 reception errors in 2018. In addition, BYU’s opponents have 46 aces in those four matches, while the Cougars have managed just 22.

“At the end of April, it will come down to can we serve and pass,” Olmstead said. “I’ve always said it and this year there have been some moments where it has really hurt us. We’re trying to get reps and have a positive mindset. We’ve played some teams that didn’t miss many serves and we are missing too many.”

Concordia (1-0 MPSF, 5-8 overall) earned its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation victory this year by beating Grand Canyon 3-1 last week. The Eagles split with BYU last season and are coached by former Cougar Shawn Patchell.

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