BYU Heads Back Into Conference Play

The Cougars plan to have plenty to celebrate as they matchup against Air Force and New Mexico this weekend at home. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The Cougars will step back into Mountain West Conference play this week as they host the Air Force Falcons and the New Mexico Lobos Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. With a 12-9 overall record and a 4-4 MWC mark, BYU is looking to make a statement in the second half of league play.

"Every win is important right now," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "There are no give-me's. We just have to take care of business with our team, do our part and play well. Every win matters."

The Cougars have had a lot to be proud of this season despite a less-than-perfect record. As of the latest national rankings, released on Oct. 26, BYU ranks 11th in the nation in blocks per game (3.24) and 22nd in hitting percentage (.272). Sophomore middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock moved up in the national rankings to the number two spot, averaging 1.85 blocks per game. Her hitting percentage (.416) also ranks fourth in the nation.

This week's conference matchups will present challenges and opportunities for the Cougars. BYU swept both teams in earlier meetings this season on the road but will have to be focused in order to avoid an upset at the hands of the two squads bringing up the rear of the league. The Cougars own a 13-1 series advantage over the Falcons and a 55-7 lead over New Mexico. BYU has actually swept the Lobos in the last 19 straight contests, dating back to 1995.

Fans can catch all the action with live stats from both matches by going to the BYU Women's Volleyball homepage at http://www.byucougars.com/volleyball_w/. Saturday night's contest will also be featured live on KBYU and BYU-TV.

In last week's action, the Cougars went 1-1 in matches close to home as they dropped a three-game contest at Utah on Saturday but picked up a four-game win at UVSC Tuesday night, their second straight win over the Wolverines.

Lexi Brown recorded double-digit kills in both matches as she picked up 10 against the Utes, the only Cougar in double figures, and 11 against the Wolverines. Senior April Varner starred against UVSC with 21 kills and 17 digs, both season-highs.

Here's an indepth look at the opponents BYU will face this weekend:

AIR FORCE

Despite being just 4-15 overall and 0-9 in the Mountain West Conference, the Falcons have shown promise this season, taking single games from both Utah and Colorado State despite match losses and taking seven other teams to at least four games.

Junior Carly Siefken is ranked fifth in MWC with 10.81 assists per game. Classmate Kristin Hamlett is also ranked fifth with 3.42 kills per game and fellow junior Rebecca Gallegos' 0.28 aces per game is the eighth-best average in the league.

NEW MEXICO

At 7-13 overall and 1-8 in the Mountain West Conference, the Lobos are looking to make a push leading up to the MWC Tournament. New Mexico is currently third blocks per game in MWC play with 3.11, just behind BYU and Utah.

Junior Nicole Ryan leads the team and is ninth in the Mountain West with 3.27 kills per game. In Mountain West matches, she is seventh with 3.39 kills per game. Preseason All-MWC senior Adah Burke leads the team and is third in the league with 4.15 digs per game. She dug a career-high 32 in the Wyoming match Sept. 24, which is third most in a match in school history and second most in an MWC match. Freshman Samie Weber leads the team with 92 blocks (1.26 per game), ranking sixth in the Mountain West. She's also third in conference play with 1.45 per game.

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