"We don't want to believe yet that we are number one," smiled 6-foot-8 outside hitter Yosleyder Cala. "Our team is better in so many ways than last year and we showed it tonight."
The new team concept brought in by new co-head coaches Ryan Millar and Shawn Patchell is giving the Cougars greater confidence.
"It's a feeling that we have that we as a team can go all the way," said powerful 6-4 outside hitter Ivan Perez. "Everyone was saying, ‘Oh you guys haven't been tested yet you only played UCLA.' Like UCLA was a bad team or something and then comes UC Irvine who is number two and we just came out to prove that we can beat the best teams in the nation."
"We are working more as a team this year," said Cala. "You can tell during the game that we are having fun and that we're all like brothers in the game. We're doing really good."
BYU dominated UC Irvine the first two matches prior to half time. The Cougars expected the Anteaters to come out on fire and put up a fight in the third game.
"We new they would come out better for the third match," Cala said. "We were kind of waiting for something to happen during the game, but we were comfortable and relaxed and just waited. We weren't in any hurry and know what we can do and showed who we are tonight."
After getting behind early in the match, BYU bounced back quickly and took the final game to sweep UC Irvine in three games. The Cougars want to show the nation that they are truly deserving of the top spot in the rankings.
"We are trying to show people that it's not like last year," said Cala. "We want to make a statement that we are a different team this year and that people have to watch out for us.
BYU will face the UC Irvine again tomorrow, and the Cougars will be ready.
"Tomorrow is a completely new match, and we're going to prepare like they're number one again, because we don't care that we're number one," said Cala. "We're going to take care of our little goals as a team and take care of business."
After being ranked number one for several weeks last season before going on a losing skid, the Cougars have a few goals to help keep them focused throughout this year.
"We have a few goals as a team," said Cala. "Even though we are ranked number one we want to stay humble. That way we can stay focused and be better. This year we're number one but we'll believe it when we have the ring."
"UC Irvine went 20 matches straight and beat us twice last year," said Ivan Perez. "Then in the clutch they just lost. We want to make sure that when our moment comes that we take it. We're working hard to make sure that we don't fall into the same kind of thing. We're working hard; we're working hard."
Hundreds of BYU fans were left standing in line and out in the cold as BYU shut the doors to a sold out Smith Fieldhouse. Fans wanting to see the game on tonight better come early to get a seat.
"Yeah it was amazing to see all the people standing outside that weren't able to get in," Cala said. "I wish we had a little bigger place to fit all the people inside so all those people don't have to go home, but this is good because we have the best fans and they really help out a lot. To hear the fans yelling makes me feel special, and I have to try even harder for them. It just makes me want to work harder for them. We have great fans."