Cougars and Utes Face Off To Open MWC

After going 1-2 in the BYU/Utah Challenge, the Cougars are looking to make a statement against No. 23 Utah in this Friday's Mountain West Conference opener for both teams. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The Cougars open Mountain West Conference play this Friday night against perennial in-state rival Utah, hoping to snap an eight-game series losing streak against the No. 23 Utes and earn state bragging rights.

"Utah is a very good team," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "We're pretty similar to them as far as stats go. The key will be serving and passing; these elements are critical for both teams. When each team has done well, their serving and passing has been stable."

BYU is coming off a rough weekend in the BYU/Utah Challenge. The Cougars were 1-2 in the event with a heart-breaking five-game loss against Saint Mary's and a four-game loss against then-No. 6 UCLA after opening the Challenge with a win over Northern Colorado. In contrast, the 7-2 Utes defeated all three teams over the weekend, including a five-game upset of the Bruins, and catapulted back into the USA Today / CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll after a two-week absence.

Despite a 5-4 start to the season, the Cougars are excited about their prospects. BYU ranks in the top half of the conference in all but one statistical category and sophomore middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock leads the league in hitting percentage (.417) and is second in blocks per game (1.73).

"We're very close to being a great team," said Lamb. "We're working on some refinements and we believe that with continued work, we can get there."

The BYU/Utah rivalry has been hotly contested since the first match in 1970. The Cougars own a 61-15 record against the Utes, including a 29-5 home mark, but have lost the last eight meetings between the two teams. BYU's most recent win came in September of 2001 under former Cougar head coach Elaine Michaelis.

Match time is set for 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. Fans can also enjoy the game live on KBYU and BYU-TV. Live stats will be available on the schedule page of the BYU Women's Volleyball home page at www.byucougars.com.

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