Sophomore middle blocker Rachel Dyer is currently 21st in the nation in blocks per game. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The No. 16 BYU women's volleyball team will face a tough test this weekend as No. 18 Utah comes to town for a matchup between the Mountain West Conference's top two teams on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
"Utah's ranking is very well-deserved," said BYU head coach Jason Watson. "They are a confident team that has been tested early in nonconference play and has had success. This will be a great match between two very competitive volleyball programs. We hope that our fans will come out and support us."
At 12-1 overall so far this season and 4-0 in league action, the Cougars are once again on pace for another conference title. Despite losing starting setter Amy Schlauder to injury three weeks ago, BYU has been dominant throughout the early part of the season, recording nine sweeps and ranking in the top 10 nationally in hitting percentage (7th - .308) and win/loss percentage (10th - .923) in addition to ranking 28th in blocks per game. Senior middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock also ranks nationally in blocks and hitting percentage while sophomore middle blocker Rachel Dyer joins Hartsock among the nation's best in hitting efficiency.
The Smith Fieldhouse has been particularly kind to the Cougar squad as BYU is 5-0 at home this season and was 10-0 in the Fieldhouse last year. An average of 1,965 Cougar faithful have shown their support at each home match this season, which ranks 11th in the nation. A BYU women's volleyball record 4,050 fans saw the Cougars shock then-No. 4 Stanford in four games in BYU's first home match of the year.
The Utes are ranked No. 18 in the nation after beginning the 2006 season 11-2 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain West Conference. Their only two losses came against then-No. 5 Florida and then-No. 14 USC, both of which were on the road. Utah leads the nation in blocks per game behind junior middle blocker Emillie Toone, who also leads the country individually with 2.12 blocks per game. The Utes are also ranked in the top 25 nationally in hitting percentage (14th - .290), assists (19th - 15.10) and kills (24th - 16.33). Sophomore Airial Salvo, the 2005 MWC Freshman of the Year, is second in the league in kills per game (4.24) and points (5.11), behind BYU's Erica Lott in both categories. She is also tied with BYU's Chelsea Goodman for the league lead in aces per game with 0.50.
In last season's match in Provo, the Cougars defeated the Utes in four games, ending a 10-match Utah winning streak in the series. BYU owns a 62-19 overall advantage in the rivalry.
Fans of these two teams can catch all the action of Friday's match via live stats or a live Internet video stream available to all BYU Cougars All-Access and/or CSTV XXL subscribers. Links for both can be found by going to the Schedule page of the BYU women's volleyball homepage at www.byucougars.com.