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BYU Men's Volleyball: What to Know Before MPSF

BYU Men's Volleyball: What to Know Before MPSF

Here’s a look ahead at what to know about BYU men’s volleyball as postseason play begins at the 2024 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship.

Apr 17, 2024 by Briar Napier
BYU Men's Volleyball: What to Know Before MPSF

Inside the picturesque Wasatch Front of Utah lies a storied tradition of success in men’s volleyball unlike no other.

Brigham Young University arrived a bit later to the party than most of its other major men’s volleyball rivals, but the Cougars have by no means used that as an excuse as they’ve won multiple national championships and produced numerous standouts and stars while on a bit of an island for the sport, all things considered.

Unsurprisingly after several trips to the national championship match in the past decade, BYU enters this season’s postseason stages with a top-10 ranking and squarely in the hunt to contend again, loaded with a squad which can do some damage on a national stage. 

But after two decades of frustration with no national title coming back to Provo in that timespan, can the Cougars finally break the hex this time and make Utah the college men’s volleyball capital of the country once again?

Here’s a look ahead at what to know about BYU men’s volleyball as postseason play begins to get underway in men’s volleyball:

What Is the History of BYU Men’s Volleyball?

The Cougars have fielded an official men’s volleyball team in Provo, Utah since 1990, with the late Carl McGown (a two-time AVCA Coach of the Year in his legendary career) taking the program as its first coach from the ground up to the promised land in a sport in which multiple powerhouse schools were already imposing their wills on everyone else at that time. 

Eight-time national finalists, no one in the Mountain West region of the country can hold a candle to BYU’s success and prestige in men’s volleyball, with the program producing 37 All-Americans (who have won a total of 73 All-American awards), 14 Olympians and three AVCA Players of the Year throughout its history. 

Entering this year’s postseason, the Cougars are 16-8 this season and rank No. 6 in the latest AVCA/NVA National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Poll released Monday.

How Many National Championships Has BYU Men’s Volleyball Won?

BYU is a three-time national champion in men’s volleyball (1999, 2001, 2004), and to date is the only national champion in the sport that has its school located west of the Mississippi River but not located in either men’s volleyball hotbed of California or Hawaii.

McGown — who went a combined 7-47 in his first two seasons in charge of the Cougars in 1990 and 1991 — recovered and steered the Cougars to their first two national titles before his retirement after the 2002 season. His successor, Tom Peterson, led BYU to a runner-up finish in 2003 before getting the job done once and for all in 2004 as today, only UCLA, Pepperdine, USC, and UC Irvine have won more national championships in the sport. 

Since the Cougars’ last crown 20 years ago, however, a bit of a curse has fallen on the program as it has come up empty in four straight trips to the national championship game in 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2021, the last of which was its last trip to date to the title match.

Who Coaches BYU Men’s Volleyball?

Shawn Olmstead, a two-time national champion as a player when he starred for the Cougars as a libero from 2000-04, became the school’s men’s volleyball head coach in 2015 after previously finding success as the Cougars’ women’s coach, being named the AVCA Coach of the Year for the women’s game in 2014 as he directed BYU to a national runner-up finish. 

The Cougars’ men’s team, who got its new coach after Chris McGown (Carl’s son) resigned following the 2015 season, became immediately successful under Olmstead; BYU made the Final Four in three straight seasons under his tutelage and the national title match twice but just missed out on winning the big one in that stretch. A promising 17-1 start in 2020 was derailed after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a return to the national final in 2021 put a fourth national title in BYU’s grasp once again, only for the Cougars to falter at the final stage to national champion Hawaii. 

Olmstead is a four-time Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year, no small feat considering the other blue-bloods of men’s volleyball that play in that league.

Where Does BYU Men’s Volleyball Play?

BYU plays in the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, a 5,000-seat arena that is the home of both of the Cougars’ volleyball squads and many of the school’s gymnastics meets. 

Previously an arena fit to hold over 10,000 people, the facility played host to BYU’s basketball teams before they moved to the massive Marriott Center in 1971, of which then Smith Fieldhouse was later downsized. 

The arena hosted the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2009 (won by UC Irvine) and additionally has an indoor track within its walls.

What League Does BYU Men’s Volleyball Play In?

BYU’s men’s volleyball team was unaffected by the school’s move in most other sports to the Big 12 Conference last year as that program stayed put as a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, a league that competes in Olympic sports that aren’t directly sponsored by a school’s main conference. 

The seven-team league features some of the most decorated programs in the sport such as Pepperdine, USC, and UCLA plus other western-based teams like Grand Canyon while being notoriously brutal competition-wise, but BYU has done well to jam its way to the front of the pile most years as it has picked up a total of 10 MPSF regular-season titles.

BYU Men’s Volleyball Notable Alumni

Though it’d be easy to list BYU’s three AVCA Players of the Year as influential, storied figures in the Cougars’ history — and we’ll get to them in a minute — arguably no player meant more to the program during its rise from obscurity to national champion than Ryan Millar. 

A middle blocker for the Cougars from 1996-99, the Californian was a four-time All-American (three-time First Team, one-time Freshman) as one of college volleyball’s most dominant attackers of the late 1990s, leading the nation in both hitting percentage and blocks per game as he led BYU to its first national championship in school history in 1999. He then spent over a decade abroad embarking on a professional career, additionally representing the United States at three Olympic Games and helping it win a gold medal in Beijing in 2008. 

As for the Cougars’ three AVCA Players of the Year — Carlos Moreno in 2004, Taylor Sander in 2014, and Gabi Garcia Fernandez in 2020 — all were incredible in their own rights. Moreno led BYU on a national title run as a setter in 2004, Sander set the Cougars’ career kills record (in the rally scoring era) before winning a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and Fernandez, who led BYU to its national runner-up finish in 2021, recently switched his national allegiance from Puerto Rico to the U.S. and could be one of the team’s top pieces at the Paris Olympics this summer.

How to Watch BYU Men’s Volleyball

You can watch the start of BYU’s postseason charge during the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Men’s Volleyball Championship, which will be streamed live and exclusively in its entirety on FloVolleyball from Wednesday to Saturday. No. 3-seeded BYU will face No. 6-seeded host USC at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the USC campus, with the winner facing a to-be-determined opponent Thursday.

How To Watch MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship 2024

Watch the 2024 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship Tournament on FloVolleyball and the FloSports app.

What Teams Are In The MPSF Men's Volleyball Tournament?

  1. UCLA
  2. Grand Canyon
  3. BYU
  4. Stanford
  5. Pepperdine
  6. USC
  7. Concordia

MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship 2024 Schedule And Bracket

Here's the tournament schedule:

MPSF Men's Volleyball Quarterfinals: Wednesday, April 17 

MPSF Men's Volleyball Semifinals: Thursday, April 18

MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship: Saturday, April 20

Men's Volleyball Rankings On April 15: AVCA Coaches Poll

RankSchoolTotal Points AdjustedRecordPrevious Week
1UCLA [13]45022-42
2Long Beach State [10]44523-21
3UC Irvine40418-94
4Grand Canyon39922-43
8Penn State28521-68
10Ball State24821-911
11Ohio State23520-810
12Loyola Chicago21919-912
15George Mason12417-916
20UC San Diego3712-14NR

Men's Volleyball RPI On April 15

2Grand CanyonMPSF22-4
3Long Beach St.Big West23-2
4UC IrvineBig West18-9
5Penn St.EIVA21-6
6Ohio St.MIVA20-8
8HawaiiBig West22-6
11Loyola ChicagoMIVA19-9
12Ball St.MIVA18-9
13Saint Francis (PA)NEC20-8
14George MasonEIVA17-9
15Purdue Fort WayneMIVA14-12
19UC San DiegoBig West11-14
22Lincoln MemorialDI Independent21-5
24CSUNBig West9-14
25UC Santa BarbaraBig West8-17

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