BYU mens volleyball vs. UCSB 21

Brigham Young University middle blocker Miki Jauhiainen (18) celebrates a point with outside hitter Zach Eschenberg (11) and setter Wil Stanley (3) during a game between the BYU Cougars and the UCSB Gauchos held at Smith Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation hasn’t officially released its men’s volleyball schedule for 2021, but the league is obviously expecting a season because on Friday they sent out preseason poll results.

It’s no surprise that BYU — No. 1 in both the AVCA and media polls — is the top team in the AVCA as voted on by the league’s coaches.

It’s the fifth time in the past six years that the Cougars have grabbed the top spot. This year, BYU collected the maximum totals of 36 points and six of the seven first-place votes.

The Cougars entire starting lineup, including AVCA Player of the Year Gabi Garcia Fernandez and All-Americans Davide Gardini, Wil Stanley and Zach Eschenberg, all returned this season after the 2021 campaign was cut short by COVID-19. At the time the season was canceled BYU was 17-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

As for this year’s schedule, the Cougars have yet to release one. On the athletic website you can find several games listed under “Events” including UCLA on Feb. 4 and 6, Pepperdine on Feb. 12 and 13 and Grand Canyon on Feb. 18 and 20.

The news release from the MPSF indicates that the season begins Jan. 29 and that each team is scheduled to play 18-regular season MPSF matches and no non-conference dates. Details about the postseason MPSF Tournament will be released at a later date.

As for the rest of the poll, Pepperdine picked up the remaining first-place vote along with 27 points, good for second-place. UCLA placed third in the poll with 25 points and Grand Canyon was picked for a middle-of-the-pack finish with 24 points. Concordia placed fifth in the poll with 17 points, Stanford as sixth (10) and USC (8) as seventh.

LATE THURSDAYBYU women rough up LMU for league victoryLOS ANGELES — Four different Cougars scored in double figures as BYU women’s basketball defeated Loyola Marymount 71-57 Thursday night at Gersten Pavilion.

“I thought we played really well,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “Our bench was key tonight. Tegan (Graham) and Kaylee (Smiler) hit some really big shots for us. Our defensive effort was also huge. Paisley (Harding) and Maria (Albiero) shut down LMU’s two leading scorers. It was a good win.”

Shaylee Gonzales led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting to go along with five assists, three rebounds and two steals. Lauren Gustin recorded her sixth double-double of the season, pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds while adding 11 points and two assists.

Graham poured in a season-high 14 points after connecting on four of her five three-point attempts and added five assists and three rebounds. Harding was the fourth Cougar to score in double figures on the night, posting 10 points and three rebounds.

Smiler contributed nine points, knocking down three timely 3-pointers, while Sara Hamson tallied two points, two blocks, two rebounds and two steals.

As a team, the Cougars (7-2, 3-1) shot 48% from the field, including 43% from distance, while holding LMU (3-8, 2-4) to 34% shooting. BYU led by as many as 31 points at the end of the third period before fending off a furious Lion comeback attempt in the fourth.

The Cougars return to the Marriott Center next week to host a pair of WCC opponents in Saint Mary’s and Pacific. BYU will first host the Gaels at 6 p.m. Thursday. The matchup will be broadcast on BYUtv and on the BYUtv app.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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