Rarely does it happen in sports. The dream match-up: No. 1 versus No. 2. Yet UC Irvine will be treated to just that as the No. 1-ranked Men’s Volleyball team in the country, Brigham Young University (and their rabid fan base) invades Irvine for a two match set against UCI, the No. 2 team in the land, this weekend.
‘I think they’re the best team in the country … by quite a bit,’ said Head Coach John Speraw.
For the first time this season, UCI (15-3, 10-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will play in the Bren Events Center in Friday night’s 7 p.m. match against the Cougars (14-2, 12-2)—reflecting the magnitude of the match.
UCI has a chance to grab the nation’s top ranking for the first time since 2003, Speraw’s first year as coach.
‘No. 1 versus No. 2 is pretty big for this school … it’s pretty rare in all of sports,’ Speraw said. ‘They’re the team to beat this year if you want to win an NCAA title. … It’s a special opportunity to welcome the conference to UCI.’
The double-header is the first of two huge contests the Anteaters will play as they host No. 3 Pepperdine in the Bren on Saturday, March 18.
‘In the next two weeks we play the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the nation,’ Speraw commented.
Speraw has been pleased with the team’s quick start to the season.
‘[15-3] is a little better than I thought we’d be doing,’ he said. ‘Clearly, our experience has taken us pretty far … so far, so good.’
Speraw said the team’s success thus far is a reflection of the goals they set for themselves heading into the season.
‘We’d really like to host a first-round playoff [match],’ he said. ‘That’s never been done at UCI so that’s a lot of fun.’
After their sweeping victory over UCLA on Friday night, the Anteaters need to get by Loyola Marymount on Monday at Crawford Hall and Penn State on Tuesday to carry an 11-match winning streak up against BYU. The Loyola Marymount match begins a crucial eight-match homestand for the team.
Speraw has won five national titles in his days with the powerhouse program of UCLA.
‘I really bring a firm belief that that can be done at Irvine,’ he said.
If UCI can upset BYU, they’ll take a big step toward affirming that belief.