Preseason MWC Player of the Year Chelsea Goodman and the Cougars begin league play on Thursday. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The No. 12 BYU women's volleyball team (6-2) is set to begin Mountain West Conference action this week as the Cougars travel to take on UNLV (8-1) on Thursday before facing San Diego State (7-2) on Saturday.
"Our nonconference schedule has helped us greatly with our preparation for Mountain West Conference play," said head coach Jason Watson. "This is a difficult trip. UNLV and SDSU have been successful in their preparation and have always competed well at home. We're excited to begin this phase of our schedule."
The Cougars have been selected as the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West Conference this season for the third year in a row while UNLV has been picked fourth and San Diego State is predicted to finish sixth. BYU finished second in the league last year with a 13-3 conference record after winning the title in 2005 at 14-2.
BYU will also be looking for its 1,000th program victory this week. With a 999-276-5 all-time record in the 39-year recorded history of Cougar women's volleyball, BYU is trying to become just the fourth program in the nation to reach the 1,000-victory milestone, joining UCLA, Missouri State and Nebraska.
The Cougars went 1-2 at the Stanford Invitational last weekend, falling in four games to No. 17 Cal Poly on Thursday and No. 2 Stanford on Saturday and sweeping Saint Mary's on Friday. Chelsea Goodman recorded double-doubles in all three matches, leading BYU in kills with 17 against the Mustangs and 19 against the Cardinal. She was named to the All-Tournament team along with Rachel Dyer, who averaged 3.36 kills and 1.18 blocks on the weekend. Goodman is now second all-time in MWC history with 40 career double-doubles.
The road trip will begin in Las Vegas where the Cougars will face the Rebels at 7 p.m. PST. The Rebels are off to an 8-1 start this season, the best start in the history of UNLV volleyball. On top of beginning the year with eight wins in nine matches, the Rebels have won seven straight, their longest winning streak since beginning the 1999 season with seven straight victories. UNLV's duo of junior outside hitter Maria Aladjova and senior middle blocker Lauren Miramontes go 1-2 for the Rebels and 5-6 in the Mountain West Conference averaging 4.25 and 4.19 kills per game, respectively. BYU is 20-2 all-time against UNLV including a 2-0 mark last year.
BYU will then have a day off to travel to San Diego where the Cougar-Aztec matchup is set to begin Saturday at 7 p.m. PST. The Aztecs are off to their best start since the 2001 season at 7-2 and have won four matches in a row, their longest winning streak since 2003. Sophomore outside hitter Stephanie Darnall leads the team and ranks eighth in the Mountain West Conference with 3.71 kills per game while senior libero Aime Cordeiro puts up a league-leading 6.79 digs per game, helping the Aztecs rank second in the MWC in that category. The Cougars are 34-26 all-time against the Aztecs including a 2-1 mark last season.
In addition to live stats, both matches will be available live for CSTV All-Access subscribers. BYU Radio will also broadcast the UNLV match live on Thursday night. Links to all three mediums can be found by going to the schedule page of the BYU women's volleyball homepage at http://www.byucougars.com/volleyball_w/.