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Slumping Cougars play host to Hawaii

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PROVO — With the formerly top-ranked men's volleyball team mired in a four-loss funk, No. 4 BYU looks for its first victory in three weeks as the Cougars play host to No. 12 Hawaii tonight and Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Both Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches between BYU (9-4, 5-3 MPSF) and Hawaii (3-9, 3-7) begin at 7 p.m., with tonight's match to be televised on KBYU and BYU-TV.

With its three losses last week in Southern California (a nonleague upset by three-time NAIA champion Cal-Baptist and back-to-back losses at then-No. 2 Pepperdine), BYU tumbled from the top spot in the national rankings to No. 4.

In this week's CSTV/AVCA coaches Top 15, Pepperdine (11-1) collected 15 of 16 first-place votes as the Waves became the third team to enjoy the No. 1 spot this season. Preseason favorite UC Irvine (15-3) is ranked second and claimed the other first-place ballot, with UC Santa Barbara (12-3) coming in at No. 3. BYU and Penn State (7-2) round out the top five.

The Warriors, which started the season ranked in the top five, will be trying for their first road victory of the season.

And while BYU holds a 21-14 all-time series advantage over Hawaii (including 12-3 in Provo), the Warriors swept the Cougars in two matches played in Honolulu last season. They were UH's first victories over BYU since 2003.

Hawaii has been without all-American Lauri Hakala, who has sat out the Warriors' last three matches with an abdominal strain. He is expected to play this weekend.

BYU starting setter Yamil Perez missed two of three matches last week nursing a sprained ankle. The Cougars are hopeful he'll return to action as catalyst of the offensive attack.

E-mail: taylor@desnews.com