BYU in the Hunt for Two National Titles
Two teams representing Brigham Young University hope to add national championships this week to the school’s trophy case.
The men’s volleyball team is the No. 2 seed at the NCAA tournament being held in Chicago this week, while the BYU Rugby team will be in search of its third straight national championship on Saturday afternoon in Sandy, Utah when it takes the pitch against national power Cal.
The volleyball team earned an automatic bid and first-round bye in the tournament after sweeping No. 3 seed Stanford on Saturday night in three sets to win its second straight MPSF tournament crown.
BYU (21-8) will likely face Stanford (22-8) again on Thursday at 5:00 pm MDT. The Cardinal will be a prohibitive favorite when it takes on the No. 6 seed Erksine on Tuesday night for the right to advance to the final four against the Cougars.
Stanford came into the MPSF tournament last week as the hottest team in country having won 13 matches in a row, but was no match for the Cougars in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday with BYU taking the home the tournament championship 25-23, 25-22, 25-22. BYU has defeated Stanford in each of their three previous meeting this season.
No. 1 seed and top-ranked Loyola of Chicago (27-1) will serve as the host of the tournament.
The Ramblers upset BYU in straights sets in Chicago back in early January as the Cougars struggled out of the gate to start the season, losing to both Loyola and Lewis in back-to-back nights. Lewis is the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will take on No. 5 Penn State for the opportunity to face Loyola.
BYU hopes to win its first national title in a decade. The Cougars won three national championships from 1999 to 2004, but have been unable to claim the title since. Last year BYU was swept in the national championship game by fellow MPSF member UC Irvine.
The Cougars are led by three-time, first team All-American Taylor Sander, one of the all-time great volleyball players in college history. Last week, Sander was tabbed as the MPSF Player of the Year for the second straight season after ending the regular season with a .331 hitting percentage and finishing second in the country in kills per set at 4.53.
BYU’s game on Thursday evening will be streamed live at NCAA.com. The national championship game will be televised live Saturday at 6:00 pm MDT on ESPNU.
Video: BYU knocks off Stanford to win the MPSF championship
Showdown at Rio Tinto
The BYU rugby team hopes to kick off a double national championship celebration for the school on Saturday when it faces the Cal Golden Bears in the Varsity Cup title match at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Real Salt Lake of the MLS.
BYU (17-1) and Cal (18-2) have met eight times for the national club title in Rugby, with the Bears holding a 6-2 advantage in the championship game. The Cougars knocked off Cal in dramatic fashion 27-24 in the inaugural Varsity Cup championship game in Provo last year when Jonny Linehan scored on a last second drop goal kick.
The last time the two teams met for a national title at Rio Tinto, Cal came away victorious 21-14.
Both teams steamrolled their way into Saturday’s game with decisive victories in the semifinals this past weekend. BYU sunk the Naval Academy 60-0 on a rain-soaked South Field, while Cal took care of Central Washington 58-14 in Berkley.
Cal head coach Jack Clark was impressed by the Cougars’ dismantling of the Midshipmen. “They were unbelievable. They’re such a powerful team with a lot of really strong, mature guys. It’s a tall task for us.”
Saturday’s Varsity Cup championship gets underway at 2:00 pm MDT and will air live on the NBC Sports Network.
Video: Highlights from BYU’s win over Navy
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