PROVO -- Engaged in spring practice since Feb. 24, the BYU women's volleyball team will test its progress in beginning its spring 2003 exhibition schedule. The Cougars will be in action for three consecutive weeks starting Saturday with tournament play at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.
The Cougars will also play at Utah on Mar. 29 and will host the BYU Spring Tournament on April 4 to finish off its exhibition schedule.
"After four weeks of practice our team has made some wonderful advances," said Jason Watson, BYU assistant coach. "Our trip to Michigan will be an opportunity to compete against teams we rarely see. It will also allow us to measure our performance against someone other than ourselves, and determine what we need to improve upon over the final two weeks of our spring season."
Coming off their most injury-plagued season in team history, the Cougars have received a sizable boost to their lineup this spring.
BYU has added two junior transfers from Utah Valley State College in middle blocker Mandi Kiholm and libero Lindsey Fish. The Cougars have also welcomed sophomore libero Melanie Togo and junior setter Martha Brinton, who has returned from a church mission.
In addition, a trio of redshirts who sat out the 2002 season has been involved in spring practice including: freshman middle blocker Lindsy Lewis, sophomore setter Lauren Richards and senior right-side hitter Sunny Mahe. Lewis was the 2002 Gatorade Idaho Player of the Year, Richards is a past member of the U.S. Women's National A2 Team and Mahe is a former All-American and All-Region performer.
With Allison Larson and Michelle Mahaffey as the only two departing seniors, BYU is projected to return ten players with starting experience in a Cougar uniform. The spring season is providing an opportunity for intense competition and spirited play for a talent-laden lineup.
"Our program has rallied around our desire to have a successful spring season," Watson said. "Much to the players credit, our level of play has risen. The ground work for a successful 2003 season is being laid this semester, and we are further along than I imagined being at this stage."
WMU is hosting a 12-team tournament, which is split into morning and afternoon play. In the morning pool the Cougars will take on Eastern Michigan and Grand Valley State. In the afternoon pool, the Cougars are scheduled to play Loyola-Chicago, Michigan and Michigan State.
BYU's opponents at the University of Utah Spring Tournament include Montana State (9:30 a.m.), UVSC (10:30 a.m.), Weber State (12:30 p.m.), Utah (2:30 p.m.) and Utah State (3:30 p.m.). The matches are being played at Crimson Court.
In the BYU Spring Tournament being played at the Smith Fieldhouse on April 4, BYU will host UVSC, Weber State, Idaho State and Utah.
After the conclusion of its spring exhibition schedule, BYU will continue its spring practice for two weeks. The team will then disperse for the summer and will reconvene in August to prepare for the 2003 season. The Cougars are presently scheduled to open the season in a tournament hosted by 2002 Final Four participant Florida at the end of August.