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Cougars win pair over Long Beach

PROVO — If the BYU men's volleyball team can play the way it did this weekend for another month or so, it just might contend for another national championship.

The third-ranked Cougars looked impressive in sweeping No. 4 Long Beach State 3-0 (30-26, 30-22, 30-22) before a crowd of 2,289 Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse. They also defeated the 49ers on Friday, 3-1.

"It's the best two nights in a row we've had (this season)," said BYU coach Tom Peterson, who saw his team record a nearly flawless performance Saturday.

In the second game, for instance, the Cougars registered an amazing .700 hitting percentage. For the match, they hit .494 and had 13 team blocks.

BYU (18-5 overall, 16-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) was led by senior Jaime Mayol, who was playing in the final regular-season home match of his career. He had 16 kills and a hitting percentage of .478.

"My family's here," said Mayol, a native of Puerto Rico. "It was my day to show off." Still, the Cougars' toughest test could come next weekend in their final two regular-season matches. BYU travels to top-ranked Pepperdine for contests Friday and Saturday.

Should the Cougars, who are sitting in second place in the league standings, win both matches against the Waves, they could host the upcoming MPSF Tournament.

"That would be huge," Peterson said.

The tournament champion receives an automatic berth to the NCAA Final Four, to be held in Long Beach. That's where the Cougars claimed the 2001 national title.

"We're peaking at the right time," Mayol said. "Everybody's playing good . . . We've got to get ready to play Pepperdine. That's our next goal." Peterson was pleased with the Cougars' focus this weekend. The key, he said, is finishing the season in strong fashion.

"That's what it's all about," he said, "you have to be great at the end."