Deseret First Duel Take Two

Kiana Rogers has posted a team-leading eight double-doubles this season. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Take two of the volleyball Deseret First Duel Rivalry series is set for Friday night as BYU (12-11, 5-8 MWC) and No. 23 Utah (19-5, 11-2) square off in Salt Lake City. The match will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Utah’s Crimson Court and will be televised live on The Mtn.

“We are putting together some great matches right now and playing extremely well as a team,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “I like the adjustments we have made and the direction we are headed. We expect the Duel to be an awesome match on Friday between two great teams.”

The 2007-08 season marked the first year of the Deseret First Duel Rivalry Series presented by Deseret First Credit Union. BYU took home the inaugural title with a 34-30 edge in the point tally. The Cougar women’s volleyball team contributed six points by sweeping the season series with the Utes for the first time since 1999 with a 3-2 win in Salt Lake City on Oct. 12 and a 3-0 blanking of the Utes on Nov. 9 in Provo to bring home the sport trophy and contribute six points to the overall point tally. This year, BYU leads the overall point standings, 6-3, after a win by the Cougar soccer team and a Utah volleyball victory on Oct. 17.

In addition to the in-state bragging rights on the line, this week’s match will be highly charged as the Utes look to continue their 11-match winning streak. However, the Cougars are anxious to play spoilers as a line-up change and the play of junior Kayla Walker has helped BYU come on strong over the past three weeks. Walker once again earned BYU Performer of the Week honors as she led BYU in kills (4.00) and blocks (1.38) last weekend. On the year, Walker is tied for eighth in the league in kills (2.95), which is also tied for the team lead, and is seventh in points (3.53).

The Cougars had a successful weekend road trip as they spilt matches at UNLV and San Diego State, avenging an earlier loss to the Aztecs. BYU dropped the first two sets against the Rebels before fighting back to force a fifth set, eventually falling 21-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 11-15. The Cougars then rebounded with a sweep at SDSU (25-17, 25-20, 26-24). Three players posted double-doubles against the Rebels led by Walker with a career-high 21 kills and 11 digs. Bryn Porter (12 kills, 16 digs) and Kiana Rogers (50 assists, 17 digs) added to the tally while Melissa Lake put up a career-high 20 digs.

The No. 23 Utes have vaulted into first place in the league standings with 11 straight victories. Senior middle blocker Lori Baird leads four Utes averaging over two kills per set as she tallied 3.18 kps while adding 1.44 blocks per set, first in the league and 11th nationally. Fellow senior middle blocker Emillie Toone ranks 16th nationally in blocks (1.39) and ninth in hitting percentage (.415), which also leads the league. The pair, along with junior Chelsey Sandberg at 1.19 bps, combine to help the Utes rank second in the country in blocks at 3.04 per set.

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