After earning Penn State Classic All-Tournament honors, setter Lauren Richards looks to once again lead the Cougars to victory at this week's Mizuno Classic presented by the Provo Courtyard Marriott. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The Cougars will make their Provo debut this weekend as hosts of the annual Mizuno Classic presented by the Provo Courtyard Marriott. With matches against Memphis, Oklahoma and Central Florida, BYU looks to improve its 2-1 record.
After a strong opening weekend at the Penn State Classic in which the Cougars' only loss came at then-No. 8 Penn State, the Mizuno Classic offers BYU a chance to compete against quality teams in the friendly confines of the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU was 12-2 last year at home and has compiled a 419-73 record in front of the hometown fans since 1972.
"Being at home is definitely an advantage for us," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "Playing on our court in front of our fans will really help elevate our game."
BYU has hosted its annual tournament since 1977 and in that time has compiled a 112-24 record in the event. The Cougars have won the tournament 17 times, including last season as they defeated Ohio State, Rice and then-No. 8 Penn State. Besides Memphis, Oklahoma and Central Florida, this year's line-up also includes Utah Valley State College.
With tradition on their side, the Cougars are ready to once again take the tournament title. Outside hitter Kim Wilson is coming off an outstanding opening weekend during which she was named to the Penn State Classic All-Tournament team after recording back-to-back double-doubles against Rutgers (21 kills, 14 digs) and Penn State (15 kills, 10 digs). Her 21-kill outing marked the first time a BYU player has notched more than 20 kills in a match since Wilson did it against Penn State in last year's Mizuno Classic.
Setter Lauren Richards is also ready to lead the Cougars to victory as she quarterbacks the attack. Richards earned All-Tournament honors at Penn State along with Wilson after averaging 12.17 assists per game and coming within three assists of her career high against Rutgers.
There were also many new faces on the floor for the Cougars that will look to make a significant contribution this weekend as well. A total of six Cougars made their collegiate debuts in last week's Penn State Classic. Redshirt freshmen Catherine Parker and Erica Lott earned starting positions while three other redshirt freshmen, Stacie Powell, Annie Kemp and Lindsey Evans saw playing time. True freshman Chelsea Goodman also competed for the Cougars. Lott was particularly impressive, starting on the rightside as she put down 13 kills against Penn State and was third on the team in blocks per game (0.92) and fourth in both kills (2.42) and digs per game (1.50).
With so much talent on the floor, Coach Lamb is optimistic both for this weekend and for the games to come.
"We know we're good but the important thing is that we've learned what we need to do to be better," Lamb said. "We just have to improve every match no matter who we play and refine things offensively."
The weekend schedule for the Cougars includes match-ups with Memphis Friday at 7:30, Oklahoma Saturday at 2:30 and Central Florida Saturday at 7:30. Volleyball fans can also catch the action of non-BYU matches all day Friday and Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse. Live stats for all of the Mizuno Classic matches will be available via the internet by going to www.byucougars.com and clicking on women's volleyball. Friday evening's BYU-Memphis match will also be broadcast live on BYU-Radio.
Here's a look at the teams who will take the floor against the Cougars this weekend:
Memphis began its season hosting the annual Memphis Invitational. The Tigers went 4-0 over the two-day event, earning wins over Tennessee State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State and UIC. In a dominating weekend performance, the Tigers swept all four teams and have yet to lose a game this season.
Memphis will be in action Thursday night at Weber State before taking on Oklahoma and BYU on Friday night and UCF and UVSC Saturday in the Mizuno Classic presented by Provo Courtyard Marriott.
Oklahoma is off to a 4-0 start entering the Mizuno Classic. The Sooners are 1-0 at home and 3-0 on the road after defeating Providence 3-0 in their season-opener at home and then earning wins over Louisiana-Monroe, Grambling State and Texas-Pan American. In those matches only Texas Pan-Am was able to pick up a game verses the Sooners, losing 3-2.
The Sooner will open the Classic against Memphis Friday at noon before taking on UVSC Saturday at 10 a.m. and then the Cougars at 2:30 p.m.
Central Florida is 0-3 this year entering the Mizuno Classic after a tough opening weekend, dropping two matches to LSU 1-3, 0-3 and one match to Rice 0-3.
The Knights will begin the Mizuno Classic matched up against Utah Valley State College Firday night in Orem before competing against Memphis Saturday afternoon and BYU Saturday night in Provo.