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UH goes up against BYU, ‘Jimmer Fever’

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    Hawaii freshman Shane Welch has filled in nicely in the middle for injured Brennon Dyer.

"Jimmer Fever" has spread to the volleyball court.

To avoid a scheduling conflict with the telecast of the NCAA Sweet Sixteen game involving star guard Jimmer Fredette and the Brigham Young basketball team, the first serve for today’s volleyball match between Hawaii and the host Cougars has been moved back an hour, to 4 p.m. Hawaii time.

"We’re delaying the match so our fans will have an opportunity to see both events," BYU volleyball coach Rob Neilson said.

Neilson said Fredette’s play has boosted enthusiasm for BYU sports on the Provo, Utah, campus.

"Right now, it is good to be Jimmer," Neilson said. "(The enthusiasm) is everywhere. … He’s a phenomenal player. There’s pandemonium on the BYU campus."

The carryover has impacted the volleyball program, which leads the nation in attendance (2,907 per match). A large gathering is expected for matches today and tomorrow in Smith Fieldhouse. The Warriors and Cougars are tied for third place at 10-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

The Cougars have won 16 of the past 19 matches between the teams in Provo, but the Warriors swept the two-match series in Manoa last year. The Warriors, who have been on the road for more than a week, arrived in Provo on Tuesday. UH is on spring break; BYU does not have a spring break.

This will be the Cougars’ first home match since Feb. 25.

"It seems like it’s been forever," Neilson said. "We love our home-court advantage. We love the environment our fans create out here. We’re excited to be back at home and play some great competitive matches."

For the Cougars, practices often are as competitive. Neilson’s mentor is Carl McGown, a former coach of BYU, BYU-Hawaii and the U.S. national team. McGown once served as a consultant for the Warriors, implementing the so-called cauldron system in which players are rated during practices, scrimmages and matches. The scores were used as guides in setting starting lineups.

"That’s the kind of competition we run," Neilson said, noting that McGown is used as a consultant. "They compete in practice and in every position. There are some hard lessons to be learned when you’re competing. They’re really working hard."

There has been a season-long competition at setter between 6-foot-5 junior Joe Kauliakamoa and 6-1 sophomore Ryan Boyce. Kauliakamoa excels in quick back sets to opposite attacker Robb Stowell at the right pin or behind the 3-meter line.

Neilson said Boyce "has a really nice release to our middles and outside hitters. He’s a little bit undersized, but also very athletic."

Neilson has not decided on a setter for today’s match.

"We have two good options," Neilson said. "We really can’t go wrong. It’s a good problem to have."

The Warriors, meanwhile, have stayed with the same lineup during their winning streak. Freshman Shane Welch has been an effective defender in place of middle blocker Brennon Dyer, who has been recovering from a sprained right ankle.

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