Cougars Open the 2009 Season in Missouri

Senior rightside hitter, Kayla Walker, will lead the team in three matches this weekend. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- The BYU women’s volleyball team will kick off the 2009 season this weekend traveling to the Tiger Invitational held at the University of Missouri. The event will feature six matches in total with the Cougars competing Friday at 3 p.m. MT against Ole Miss and twice on Saturday against Texas State at 9 a.m. MT and Missouri at 5:30 p.m. MT.

“We are opening the season with some great opponents,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “It will be an exciting weekend and we know each team will come to play. It will really give us a chance to measure where we are and what we must do to get where we want to go. The girls are ready and anxious to get on the court and to prove themselves.”

Senior rightside hitter, Kayla Walker, will lead the Cougars in the Tiger Invite. She was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West Conference Team, leading the Cougars with 285 kills last season. Anchoring the team in the back row is libero Melissa Lake Wright, who led with 253 digs in 2008.

BYU is 33-6 all-time in season openers (no match-by-match records for 1971) and has not lost a season opener since 1999. The team leads Ole Miss 2-0 in the all-time series, the last meeting was the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament where the Cougars won 3-0. BYU also leads the all-time series against Missouri 1-0, with the only meeting coming in 2008, which was a five-set win for the Cougars. Saturday’s meeting against Texas State will be the first in history.

The Ole Miss Rebels finished the 2008 campaign with a 14-15 mark and a 10-10 record in Southeastern Conference play. Led by sophomore Katie Norris, who paced the team with 321 kills in 2008 despite only starting 15 matches, the Rebels have one of the youngest teams in the SEC with only one senior on their roster. The lone senior - Caitlin Weiss - finished second on the team with 205 kills during the 2008 season.

The Texas State Bobcats come into the 2009 season as the defending Southland Conference Champion. Overall, Texas State finished with a 23-14 record in 2008, including a 14-2 mark in league play. The Bobcats are led by senior Jessica Weynand, who led the team in kills (372), digs (365) and service aces (35).

Missouri returns five starters and its libero from last season as nearly 70-percent of the team's point production returns to the floor, highlighted by Julianna Klein, who finished 2008 with a team-best 446.0 points. The Tigers also return 91-percent of their season dig total as all three back-row regulars - libero Caitlyn Vann, Annie Lopez and Priscilla Armendariz - each return for another season. The trio accounted for 1,052 digs in 2009, accounting for 62-percent of the returning defense. Each of the nine players returning in 2009 saw action in at least 22 of Mizzou's 30 matches in 2008.

Live stats will be available for all six matches; visit the Mizzou women’s volleyball schedule page on the Mizzou women’s volleyball home page by clicking HERE to access these links.