After recording double-digit kills in both of BYU's matches last week, junior Lexi Brown hopes to once again lead the Cougars to victory as they travel to UNLV and San Diego State this weekend. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The Cougars will take to the road one last time this regular season as they head south for matchups with UNLV and San Diego State this Friday and Saturday with both matches scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. PST (8 p.m. MST). At 14-9 overall and 6-4 in the Mountain West Conference, BYU is currently tied for third place with the Rebels and will be looking to secure the No. 3 seed for the upcoming MWC Tournament.
"Obviously these matches are very important for us," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "We want to take everything one match at a time and finish strong going into the Tournament."
The next two weeks will be crucial for the Cougars heading into the Tournament. With home matches against Wyoming, whom BYU lost to in October, and No. 9 Colorado State on the table next week, the Cougars need to come up big on the road.
BYU currently ranks in the top three in five statistical categories on the season, including hitting percentage (.278), blocks (3.23), opponent hitting percentage (.159), kills (15.68) and service aces (1.69). The Cougars lead the league in blocks per game in Conference matches (3.53). Lauren Richards leads all MWC players in aces with 0.52 while Lindsy Hartsock is second in the conference in both hitting percentage (.401) and blocks (1.77).
"We've done a lot of good things lately which makes us feel confident that we've improved," Lamb said. "These will be tough matches but we had a good week of practice. We just have to play well back-to-back and improve our passing and serving. If we do that, we should take care of both teams."
The Cougars are coming off a strong showing last weekend against conference opponents Air Force and New Mexico. BYU went 2-0 in those matches with a sweep of the Falcons 30-19, 30-15, 30-12 to mark the Cougars' eighth sweep of the season and a four-game win over the Lobos 30-19, 26-30, 30-24, 30-21.
Lexi Brown came up big for the Cougars in both contests as she recorded a team-leading 14 kills on .650 hitting against Air Force and 10 kills versus the New Mexico. True freshman Chelsea Goodman added a career-high 11 digs against the Falcons while Erica Lott hit a career-high .722 off the Lobos.
Here's a look at the squads the Cougars will face in this week's action:
At 12-8 overall and 6-4 in the Mountain West Conference, the Rebels are currently tied for third place in the MWC with BYU. UNLV ranks first in the conference in digs with 15.58, second in assists (14.44) and servicec aces (1.58) and third in kills (15.92).
Senior setter Nikki King earned MWC Player of the Week honors two weeks ago and is closing in on UNLV's career digs record. King already owns the school's career assist mark. Freshman outside hitter Maria Aladjova is currently fourth in the MWC in kills per game with 4.50 and has recorded double-digit kills in 17 of UNLV's 20 matches. Freshman Jada Walker leads the conference in digs per game with 4.50.
The Cougars are 14-2 all-time against the Rebels, including a four-game win at home earlier this season.
SAN DIEGO STATE
The Aztecs had a rough start in 2004, losing their first 14 straight matches before finally coming up with a win against Wyoming to get MWC play started. The Aztecs are now 3-20 overall and 3-7 in the Mountain West with wins over the Cowgirls, New Mexico and Air Force. Five of their losses have come at the hands of ranked teams as they have fallen to then-No. 17 Arizona to open the season, then-No. 18 UC Santa Barbara, then-No. 20 Utah and then-No. 9 Colorado State twice.
Freshman Aime Cordiero is currently second in the MWC in digs per game in league play with 4.36. Since returning to the lineup on Sept. 21 after recovering from an injury, senior Kara Moriarty is averaging 3.45 kills per game and 1.94 digs per game.
BYU swept the Aztecs at home in October and leads the all-time series 28-15.