Weekly Release #7 - Cougars, Utes in Early Season Showdown

Sophomore libero Melanie Togo put up a career-high 15 digs in the Cougars' win over Weber State on Tuesday night. BYU will host instate rival Utah on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- Riding a four-match win streak and having won 10 of its last 12 matches, the BYU women's volleyball team will host instate rival Utah Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. The two teams are currently tied for second in the Mountain West Conference with 3-1 records.

BYU (13-4) has not lost two matches in a row all season, and all four losses have come to teams that are either ranked or listed in the most recent USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll. After starting the season 4-3, the Cougars have reeled off winning streaks of five and four matches.

In contrast, Utah (9-6) the preseason pick to win the MWC, has seen its play ebb and flow all season, and has endured a couple of two-match losing streaks.

"It's still early in the season, but playing at home, this is a must win match for us," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "Utah is a quality team, though, and we need to be at our best to win.

"Every week we stress passing and serving, and this week is no different. We also have to step up and contain their middle attack."

Offensively, the Cougars are hitting a collective .258, the best overall hitting percentage among MWC teams. Three players average three kills per game or better, including Kim Wilson (3.96), April Varner (3.56) and Carrie Bowers (3.00).

BYU, the No. 20 blocking team in the nation with a 2.89 blocks per game average, is led on the front line by Lindsy Lewis-Hartsock (1.25), Laura Nielsen (1.12) and Lexi Brown (1.10). Uila Crabbe leads the back-row brigade with a MWC-best 3.40 dpg average.

The Utes are led by Kim Turner who averages a team-best 3.84 kpg with 2.36 dpg and 1.38 bpg.

The BYU versus Utah match-up is the longest running series between MWC teams and the Cougars lead the all-time series 61-12, with a 30-3 mark at home.

"BYU and Utah matches have always been exciting because of the rivalry we have," Lamb said. "The fans can feel the intensity and makes for a great atmosphere. Hopefully we'll have several thousand fans out to support us."

Weekly Notes:

Week #6 (and part of Week #7) in Review ...

The Cougars went on the road for the first time in three weeks, last week, to open their Mountain West Conference schedule. They swept New Mexico on Thursday and came from 0-2 down to stun Air Force on Friday night. That pushed the BYU win streak to three matches, during which it has hit over .300 in each match. On Tuesday, the Cougars traveled up to Ogden for an early week match and after dropping the first game, took the next three for a four-game win.

This Week ...

BYU's remaining match this week is against Mountain West Conference and instate foe Utah. The two team s will clash on Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

Winning Ways

The Cougars currently ride a four-match win streak and are winners of 10 of their last 12 matches.

On Television, Radio and Online

The Cougars will have their match against Colorado State broadcast live on KBYU-TV, BYUTV and BYU-Radio. Additionally, a live audio/video stream of the BYU vs. Utah match will be available online. All links to broadcast matches and livestats of all home matches will be available via the BYU women's volleyball home page at www.byucougars.com.

Varner Vabulous

After working her way back into the starting lineup, junior outside hitter April Varner is proving her worth. She has three double-doubles on the season and all three have come in the past four matches. Against Weber State she had match highs in kills (15) and digs (16).

Poll Position

BYU fell one spot in the USA Today/AVCA Division I poll and is listed as the No. 30 team. The Cougars dropped down one spot from last week, but actually gained votes, jumping from 21 to 36.

Lamb All Even

With BYU's win over Weber State on Tuesday, BYU coach Karen Lamb evened her Division I career coaching record at 117-117.

Play One, Play All!

Against New Mexico and Air Force, 11 players saw action in each match. With 12 players traveling, and the 12th player being backup setter Jenna Judkins, who is being held out in order to perserve her redshirt year, all active BYU players were able to make a contribution.

Double-Double Varner

Against Air Force, April Varner recorded her second double-double of the season with 18 kills and 10 digs.

Wilson's Ways

Kim Wilson led the Cougars in kills with 29 and attempts with 62, last week. She was the only BYU player to record double-digit kills in each match, despite not starting either match.

Hartsock Contributions

Freshman Lindsy Hartsock is making an impact on the league in her first year with the Cougars, ranking second in the MWC for hitting percentage (.367) and aces (.46 per game), and placing third in blocks (1.29 per game).

Back From the Brink

BYU defeated Air Force in five games, after coming back from an 0-2 deficit. It is the first time this season that the Cougars have come from 0-2 down to win the match.

Ball Bouncing for Brown

With the spread of playing time, sophomore middle blocker Lexi Brown was perhaps the biggest benefactor. Brown took advantage of her playing time by leading the team with a 1.50 blocks per game average. She is the current leader in the MWC with a 1.62 bpg average. Brown was also an offensive force with 16 kills (2.67 kpg) with only one error, while second on the team with a .484 attack percentage. With 31 attempts, she had more attempts than Lindsy Lewis-Hartsock and Laura Nielsen combined.

Cougar Block; Top-25 Nationally

With a block that's improving with each passing week, the Cougars again finished the week with an overall 21-14.5 blocking advantage over its opponents. BYU is in the top-25 nationally in blocking.

BYU Attendance

BYU drew over 1,000 fans against Colorado State (1,464) and Wyoming (1,094), Sept. 26-27. In their seven home matches this season, the Cougars have drawn over 1,000 fans in five matches. The two matches that fell below the mark were day matches against Rice and Nevada that fell on the same days as BYU football games.

Let's Go Four!

The Cougars are 6-0 in four-game matches this season. Of the six matches, BYU lost the first game in four.

Perfect By the Numbers

BYU is 13-0 this season when it has a higher attack percentage than its opponent and is 10-0 when it has more digs than its opponent.

Redshirts for 2003

Of BYU's eight incoming true freshman, seven are slated to redshirt the 2003 season. They are: Erica Lott, Catherine Parker, Lindsey Evans, Stacie Powell, Amy Hulse, Annie Kemp and Kimberly Dabo.

Best and Worst Starts to a Season

The Cougars' best-ever start to a season is 23-0 in 1977, a year in which they finished 34-5. BYU's worst start to a season is 1979 when it started 0-2. The Cougars have never lost more than two matches in a row to start a season.

Roster of Champions

After an unprecedented year in which nine of the 16 players on the roster sustained injury, BYU made it a mandate to recruit additional talent. While at times last year the Cougars didn't have enough players to scrimmage, with the current 21 players on the roster, BYU is not only ensured of having enough players to practice, but the team's competitive level of play in practice has risen.

Young and Experienced

Of the Cougars' nine returning letterwinners, eight have starting experience. Of those eight, all eight have the potential to be All-MWC team selections with playing time.

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