Senior Lindsey Metcalf and the Cougars are looking to improve on their 5-5 record. BYU will take on Utah State, New Mexico and Air Force in this week's action. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The Cougars are heading out of town this week hoping to improve on their 5-5 record with matchups against instate rival Utah State and Mountain West Conference foes New Mexico and Air Force.
BYU will first face the Aggies Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Logan, Utah, before playing at New Mexico on Thursday at 7 p.m. and at Air Force on Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We like to play all the Utah schools and win those instate rivalries," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "All three of these schools have good programs even though they're a little down this year. We know these will be competitive matches."
The battle for instate bragging rights actually began last Friday as BYU dropped its first Mountain West Conference game to then-No. 23 Utah in the Smith Fieldhouse despite a career-high night for Lindsey Evans, who recorded 21 digs, and a powerful performance by Kim Wilson, who led all players with 19 kills on .395 hitting.
Individual highlights are many for the Cougars so far this season as both veterans and newcomers have contributed to BYU's quest for victory.
A total of four Cougars currently rank in the top five in several MWC statistical categories. Sophomore middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock leads the Cougars and is second in the MWC in both hitting percentage (.410) and blocks per game (1.68). Wilson's all-star efforts have placed her third in the conference in kills per game with 3.63 and fifth in hitting percentage with a .345 mark. Returning All-MWC setter Lauren Richards currently tops the charts with 0.60 aces per game while redshirt freshman Erica Lott is tied for the third spot with 0.42 aces per game.
Wilson, Richards and Lott have also earned All-Tournament honors during the Cougar preseason at the Penn State Classic and BYU Mizuno Invitational.
Still, the Cougars are anxious to prove that they are better than their record.
"We're kind of frustrated right now, especially with our play at the end of matches," said Lamb. "The key for us is figuring out how to do great things without pushing too hard. We just need to play our game and not worry about trying to do too much."
This week BYU is looking to get back on the winning track. The Cougars have not lost consecutive conference matches since the 2002 season and are 0-1 on the road so far in 2004. The following is a look at the teams that will take the floor against the Cougars this week.
At 2-7, the Aggies are suffering through their worst start to a season since they began 1-8 in 1999. Utah State split its two matches last week, losing at Idaho but defeating UC Davis. Over the last five years, the Aggies are 40-16 at home but are 0-2 so far this season. Junior Zuzana Cernianska ranks fourth all-time in kills at Utah State.
BYU holds a 46-12 series advantage over the Aggies all-time. The Cougars barely escaped with the win last year in a tight five-game contest in Provo (26-30, 29-31, 30-24, 30-28, 15-12). Lauren Richards, Lexi Brown and Lindsey Metcalf all recorded double-doubles in the match.
The Lobos return five starters from last year's 4-25 squad and at 6-6 have already won more games in 2004 than in the entire 2003 season. Senior Adah Burke leads the Mountain West Conference in digs per game with 4.71.
The Cougars are 54-7 all-time versus the Lobos, including wins in both meetings last season. In fact, the Cougars have not dropped a single game to New Mexico since 1995.
The Falcons return 10 letterwinners and four starters and are 4-6 overall in 2004. Last week, Air Force defeated Texas Pan-American in straight games but lost to Wyoming in four games and Colorado State in three to begin Mountain West Conference play 0-2.
BYU leads the relatively new series with a 12-1 overall record. The Cougars won both regular season matchups in 2003 and then defeated the Falcons again in the first round of the MWC Tournament.