Lindsy Hartsock and her Cougar teammates hope to have a lot to celebrate this week as they play in the Mountain West Conference Volleyball Championship. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The Cougars head to Fort Collins, Colo., this week to the campus of Colorado State University for the 2004 Mountain West Conference Championships. Seeded No. 3 in the league, BYU will face No. 6 San Diego State in the quarterfinals Thursday at 4 p.m. before a possible semifinal matchup with second-seeded CSU, ranked No. 8 nationally, or seventh-seeded Wyoming. At 17-10 overall, the Cougars' NCAA tournament hopes ride on their performance this week, with the winner of the MWC crown earning an automatic NCAA bid.
"We think we need to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAAs," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "We control our future by winning the tournament and that's our plan. We're playing pretty well and we're just going to take it one match at a time."
For the fifth straight year, the MWC Volleyball Championship will be televised, with this season's tournament marking the first time ever that all seven championship matches will be made available to a national audience by College Sports Television (CSTV). The MWC will be the only conference to have all matches from its conference championship nationally televised.
Fans of the Cougars can catch the action with programming provided by KBYU and BYUTV. The Cougars' first match, against San Diego State, will be shown live nationally on BYUTV and then shown tape-delayed at 9:30 p.m. on CSTV and 10:30 p.m. on KBYU. If the Cougars advance to Friday's semi-final match, that match will also be broadcast live on BYUTV and tape-delayed at 6 p.m. on KBYU. Saturday's championship match may also be broadcast. Fans can contact KBYU for further details regarding the precise broadcast schedule.
BYU's first round opponent could prove tough as everyone vies for the automatic bid. The Aztecs are 4-23 overall and 4-10 in the MWC with wins over Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force. SDSU is fifth in the league in blocks with 2.55 per game and is led by senior Kara Moriarty, who is fourth in the league in kills (3.48), junior Ashley Bowker, fourth in blocks (1.33), and freshman Aime Cordeiro, fourth in digs (3.52). The Cougars are 29-15 all-time against the Aztecs, including two sweeps this season. The two teams have never met in the MWC tournament.
In both of their possible semifinal matchups, the Cougars will be facing familiar opponents, having ended the regular-season last weekend with home matches against the Rams and the Cowgirls. BYU suffered a heart-breaking five-game loss to then-No. 10 Colorado State 30-18, 25-30, 34-36, 30-25, 15-17 and recorded a sweep of the Wyoming Cowgirls, 30-18, 30-20, 30-23.
Several Cougars shined in the CSU loss as Lauren Richards and Lindsy Hartsock each recorded career-highs in blocks with 13 apiece and Lindsey Metcalf hit a season-high 15 kills. Adding 48 assists in the match, Richards recorded her team and MWC-leading eleventh double-double while Metcalf posted back-to-back double-doubles on the weekend with 15 kills and 17 digs against the Rams and 12 kills and 12 digs versus the Cowgirls. The senior hitter also recorded a career-high hitting percentage with a .611 mark against Wyoming.
The Cougars are certainly not strangers to Moby Arena on the campus of Colorado State. The Rams have hosted the MWC tournament in two previous years, 2000 and 2002. BYU is 5-1 in those years, winning the title in 2000 and losing in the championship match in 2002. The Cougars defeated the Rams on their home court in both tournaments.