Junior middle blocker Lindsey Hartsock and the women's volleyball team will be competing for the MWC championship in 2005. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
After finishing the 2004 season at 19-11 overall and third in the Mountain West Conference with a 9-5 record, BYU is looking to challenge for the conference title and return to the NCAA Tournament in 2005.
The Cougars will rely on an experienced group of returning players and a new coaching staff to achieve their goals.
Jason Watson, who has 11 years of collegiate coaching experience as an assistant at four universities including three as an assistant at BYU, was named head coach of the program after the departure of Karen Lamb. Brooke Huebner, back for her second season on the sidelines, and recently hired Brent Aldridge will be Watson's assistants. Aldridge comes to BYU with 12 years of coaching experience at the collegiate, high school and club levels. He most recently served as an assistant at the University of New Mexico for three seasons.
With the return of 10 letterwinners, including six starters, Watson is optimistic about the Cougars' potential to make a run for the MWC Championship.
"We made significant advances during the spring season," Watson said. "Our athletes are more comfortable within our systems. As we further define our approach to the game I expect to see further gains. We have a lot of work to do, but our staff has tremendous confidence in each of our student-athletes."
Junior Lindsy Hartsock, an All-MWC performer, is BYU's top returning middle blocker after completing an impressive season in 2004. Collegiate Volleyball Update Magazine named Hartsock the 2004 Blocker of the Year, as she finished second in the nation and first in the MWC and on the team in blocks per game (1.86). She was also 25th nationally in hitting percentage at .380. Senior Lexi Brown, who has started parts of the last three seasons, will also see time in the middle. She was second on the team in hitting percentage at .344 in 2004. Sophomore Catherine Parker and Rachel Dyer, who redshirted last year, are also competing for playing time while new recruits Ashton Hansen and Marisa Vandersteen will look to get some experience.
With the return of senior Kim Wilson and sophomore Erica Lott, the outside hitter position will be a major strength for the Cougars in 2005. Wilson was named All-MWC in 2004 and is a three-year starter. She was second on the team in kills per game at 3.15 while adding 2.04 digs per contest. Lott led the team with a 3.40 kills-per-game average, which was fourth in MWC play. Sophomore Chelsea Goodman also saw action on the outside in 2004 and will compete for time along with redshirt freshman Bryn Porter.
The setter position is loaded with talent and experience as senior Lauren Richards, a two-time All-MWC performer, leads the way. Richards has started the past two seasons and has set the Cougars to hitting percentages of .277 (2004) and .255 (2003). She is sixth all-time at BYU in career assists with 2,757. Along with her setting abilities, she is one of BYU's most versatile players, having played outside hitter in 2001 before redshirting. She will be pushed for playing time by redshirt freshman Amy Schlauder, a top-30 recruit coming out of high school in 2003. Sophomore Jenna Judkins will also figure into the mix.
Sophomore Lindsey Evans is returning at libero and will be joined by several others competing for court time. Evans played in every match in 2004 and totaled 274 digs. She set an MWC record with 33 digs against UNLV, the second-highest mark in BYU history. Sophomore Annie Kemp and incoming-freshmen Janvier Beaumont and Stephanie Lau will push Evans for playing time.
The right side is the only position with major question marks going into the 2005 season after losing Lindsey Metcalf, a four-year starter for the Cougars, to graduation. Brown, a traditional middle blocker, is a frontrunner for the job, having played there on occasion in 2004.
After finishing third in the Mountain West Conference, BYU is looking to improve its record this upcoming 2005 season and make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars will face four teams that competed in the NCAA Volleyball Championship in 2004: No. 6 Ohio State, No. 19 Colorado St., Nevada and Utah.
Of the Cougars' 2005 opponents, BYU has a winning record against all of its opponents and has a good chance of competing for the Mountain West Conference title. BYU's all-time record versus this season's opponents is a dominating 420-79-1 (.841).
All-time BYU records vs. 2005 opponents
Montana St. 5-0
Idaho St. 22-1
Utah St. 46-13
* Ohio St. 6-0
* Pittsburgh 1-0
New Mexico 56-7
Air Force 14-1
Colorado St. 44-18-1
San Diego St. 30-15
Weber St. 53-0
* possible opponent