The Cougars went 19-11 overall in 2004, including a 9-5 Mountain West Conference mark. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The BYU Cougars continued their winning ways in 2004, finishing the season 19-11 overall and moving to 943 all-time wins in the 36-year recorded history of the program, which is third among NCAA Division I teams.
BYU also earned a third-place Mountain West Conference finish with a 9-5 regular season record. The Cougars advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament before bowing out against eventual champion and nationally ranked Colorado State, failing to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for only the third time in the Tournament's history.
The Cougars began the season with two tournaments, going 2-1 at both the Penn State Classic and the BYU Mizuno Classic presented by the Provo Courtyard Marriott. Outside hitter Kim Wilson took home all-tournament honors in both competitions while setter Lauren Richards earned all-tournament accolades at the Penn State Classic and outside hitter Erica Lott, in just her second week of collegiate volleyball action, received Mizuno Classic All-Tournament recognition.
The month of September continued with a sweep of Northern Colorado followed by four disappointing losses, including a four-gamer against No. 24 Utah to open up MWC play. BYU rebounded to close out the month with a sweep of New Mexico, sparking a five-match winning streak.
In October, the Cougars compiled an 8-3 record, earning sweeps of Weber State, San Diego State and Air Force (twice) as well as posting wins over UNLV, Utah Valley State College and New Mexico in the second matchup of the season. BYU stepped out of MWC play for a match against Notre Dame and came away from a nail-biting five-game match with the win. A surprising loss at Wyoming accompanied losses to No. 14 Utah and No. 7 Colorado State during the month.
The Cougars opened November with wins at UNLV and SDSU. In the last weekend of regular-season play, then-No. 9 Colorado State came to town looking to dominate. BYU came out tough, taking the first game 30-18 and eventually forcing a fifth game in which the Cougars had three match points. However, the Rams proved resilient in the end, pulling out the 17-15 game-five win to take the match.
After sweeping Wyoming to end regular-season MWC play and San Diego State in the first round of the MWC Tournament, BYU once again met up with the Rams, this time on the CSU home court. The Cougars found their MWC title hopes dashed with a four-game loss to the Rams.
As a team, the Cougars excelled statistically. BYU led the league in blocks per game (3.37), which ranked fifth nationally, and were second in hitting percentage (2nd - .277), which ranked 19th nationally. In total, the Cougars were ranked in the top three in the MWC in six of seven statistical categories, including opponent hitting percentage (3rd - .158), assists (2nd -- 14.29), kills (2nd -- 15.79) and service aces (3rd -- 1.61).
While BYU's 11 losses were uncharacteristic, eight of those losses came to teams that finished the season ranked or that received votes in the final USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll. Those losses included five-game defeats against No. 13 Saint Mary's and No. 19 Colorado State; four-game losses to No. 7 Penn State, No. 9 UCLA, Utah (received votes) and No. 19 Colorado State; and sweeps at the hands of No. 19 Colorado State and Utah (received votes). The Cougars suffered only two three-game losses on the season while sweeping 12 opponents, including a string of four foes in a row.
The Smith Fieldhouse once again proved magical as the Cougars went 11-5 at home in front of an average of 1,158 fans per match, the 28th-best home attendance mark in the nation. BYU was 5-6 on the road and 3-0 in neutral court contests.
Several honors poured in for the Cougars throughout the season as BYU players excelled both on and off the court.
Sophomore Lindsy Hartsock stunned opponents with her blocking prowess, stuffing every team on her way to being named the Collegiate Volleyball Update Blocker of the Year. Hartsock finished the season ranked first in the MWC and second in the nation, averaging 1.86 blocks per game. The 6-foot-4 Idaho native was one of just three players in the nation to finish the season with more than 200 blocks (205) as she led the Cougars in blocking 21 times on the season, including a career-high 13 rejections against then-No. 9 Colorado State. Hartsock also finished second in the MWC and was 25th in the nation in hitting percentage with a .380 efficiency. She earned All-MWC accolades and MWC Player of the Week honors for her efforts.
Setter Lauren Richards continued to lead the Cougar attack in her junior year, receiving her second All-MWC award. Richards recorded 1407 assists on the season, moving her into sixth place at BYU for career assists. Her 12.45 assist average was third in the league. Richards also led the league the entire season in service aces (0.5) and recorded the first triple-double of her career with 10 kills, 47 assists and 12 digs against then-No. 6 UCLA. Richards also received MWC Player of the Week honors this season as well as being named to the Penn State Classic All-Tournament Team.
Another All-MWC selection, outside hitter Kim Wilson continued to dominate Cougar opponents with her powerful arm swing. Wilson led the team in kills with 318 and was second in kills per game, averaging 3.15, good enough for 10th in the conference. She was also the only Cougar to be named to both tournament teams after averaging 3.86 kills and a .360 hitting percentage. With 21 kills vs. Rutgers, she became the first Cougar to record more than 20 kills in a match since Sept. 10, 2003.
Two redshirt freshmen also made an impact for BYU this season as outside hitter Erica Lott and libero Lindsey Evans came on strong. Lott paced the Cougars in kills with 3.40 per game, fourth in the MWC, and was named to the Mizuno Classic All-Tournament Team. She recorded career highs of 19 kills and a .722 hitting percentage in her first season of collegiate volleyball.
Evans also provided a spark for the Cougars, playing in 105 games at the libero position. The Oregon native led BYU in digs with 2.61 per game, which was seventh in the MWC. Evans recorded 33 digs against UNLV, setting a conference record and placing herself second all-time at BYU for digs in a match.
The Cougars also said goodbye to two seniors who made an impact on the program in the 2004 season.
An All-MWC hitter, Lindsey Metcalf proved to be the Cougars' most versatile athlete, beginning the season at the libero spot and seeing action as a traditional outside hitter before moving to the rightside. She finished the season ninth in the league with a .285 hitting percentage and 11th in the MWC with 2.51 digs per game. She also recorded her first career triple-double in 2004 with 13 kills, 18 digs and 10 blocks at UNLV and was selected to the CoSIDA District VIII Academic All-District Second Team.
April Varner, a three-year Cougar who transferred from Long Beach State College, was second on the team in digs with 2.60 per game, which was eighth in the MWC. She recorded four double-doubles on the season to reach 15 in her career. With 11 digs against Colorado State in the MWC tournament, she reached 500 digs for her career.