Sophomore setter Lauren Richards quarterbacked the Cougars to two wins last week. She leads BYU into the second half of its Mountain West Conference schedule this weekend in matches at Wyoming on Friday and No. 18 Colorado State on Saturday. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- In perhaps its most important stretch of matches this season, the BYU women's volleyball team will embark on its "Front Range" road trip when it visits Wyoming Friday at 7 p.m. and No. 18 Colorado State Saturday at 7 p.m.
Entering the second half of its their conference schedule, the Cougars (15-5 overall) currently sit in third place in the Mountain West Conference standings with a 5-2 record. BYU will take on the Cowgirls (14-8, 3-4) who are 5-1 this season at home. The Cougars will then take on the MWC-leading Rams (16-4, 7-0), who swept BYU earlier this season.
"This is always an important trip for our team," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "It's especially important this year, because we have to win all of our remaining matches to have any hope of winning the conference championship."
BYU is coming off its most dominating offensive performance of the year, in hitting .439 to sweep UNLV on Saturday.
Offensively the team continues to be led by sophomore outside hitter Kim Wilson, who is averaging 4.00 kills per game. The Cougars are also tied as the best-hitting team in the MWC with a .260 hitting percentage.
Defensively, BYU averages 2.87 blocks per game and is currently the No. 23-ranked blocking team in the nation. Senior Uila Crabbe continues to be the most effective libero in the MWC with 268 digs (3.57 dpg).
"We still have areas that we need to improve in, but we're improving everyday," Lamb said. "We enjoy playing tough matches and this weekend will be a good barometer of our progress."
BYU swept Wyoming in a meeting earlier this year, and the Cowgirls have gone 4-2 since then.
CSU moved up two spots in this week's USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, and is currently the only ranked team in the MWC. The Rams have won nine matches in a row and last lost against then-No. 22 Minnesota.
"We're going into two of the toughest environments to play in," Lamb said. "These are two quality teams and we'll have to play our best on both nights to come out on top."
Despite its first losing season ever last year, BYU won both of its matches at Wyoming and CSU, both in five games.
Week #8 in Review ...
BYU concluded the first half of its Mountain West Conference schedule with a pair of matches against San Diego State and UNLV. Against the Aztecs, BYU came from 0-2 down, for the second time this year, for the dramatic win. The next night against the Rebels, the Cougars hit a season-high .439.
BYU hit with increasing efficiency against the Rebels. The Cougars hit .360 in the first game and followed that with .474 and .514 efforts. Of the six Cougars who recorded more than 10 hitting attempts against UNLV, no one hit under .288. Lindsy Hartsock led the way with a .429 average.
Offensively on Top
The Cougars are tied with Colorado State as the most efficient offensive team in the MWC, hitting at a .260 clip. BYU also leads the conference in digs per game with a 14.24 average.
BYU remains the only team in the MWC to have three players ranked in top 10 hitting percentage (2-Lindsy Hartsock .352; 9-Carrie Bowers .303; and 10-Laura Nielsen .300).
Lindsey Metcalf set career highs with 18 kills and a .500 hitting percentage against UNLV Saturday night. In the same match, Kim Wilson matched Metcalf with 18 kills while hitting .455.
Wilson's Double-Double Tear
Wilson put down 14 kills and put up a career-high 17 digs against San Diego State, for her third consecutive and seventh double-double of the year. It is the second time Wilson has had three straight double-doubles this season. The other streak was during the BYU Mizuno Classic in September.
BYU Stuffing Opponents
The No. 2-ranked team in the MWC for opponents hitting percentage with a .171 mark, BYU held both the Aztecs (.130) and Rebels (.157) under that mark last week.
Ace! Point! Cougars!
BYU's 11 aces against SDSU was a season-high for the Cougars in MWC play.
Swing, Swing BYU
The Cougars' 185 attempts versus the Aztecs was their second-highest mark of the season (188 vs. Penn State, 9-13).
With 21 digs against the Aztecs, Crabbe posted her second 20-plus dig match of the season. She came out the next night against the Rebels and recorded 18 digs in three games.
Seeing her first extensive action of the season, junior libero Lindsey Kearl was instrumental in sustaining numerous Cougar runs. She put away three aces against San Diego State and one against UNLV, but both teams had trouble picking up her serve and getting into system.
BYU is the 20th-ranked team in national average attendance. The Cougars average 1,366 fans per match at the Smith Fieldhouse, tops in the Mountain West Conference. BYU has played at home ten times this season, and eight matches have seen crowds of over 1,000. In the other two matches, there was a scheduling overlap with BYU home football games.
With her double-double against UNLV on Oct. 18, setter Lauren Richards now has nine on the season. April Varner and Karina Puikkonen tied for the BYU high last season with eight a piece.
Digging the Libero
BYU senior libero Uila Crabbe recorded 18 digs against UNLV last week, and in doing so pushed her career digs mark to 952, passing Corinne Russell (942) on BYU's all-time list. Crabbe now stands sixth all-time in digs at BYU and should surpass Caroline Bower (1,052) sometime this season.
After spending four consecutive weeks receiving votes in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, BYU fell out of the polls as a listed team last week. The Cougars peaked as they were listed No. 26 on Sept. 26. Since the beginning of the AVCA Coaches Top 20 Poll in 1982, BYU has been ranked a total of 252 weeks, which ranks the Cougars eighth in NCAA history.
Cougar Block; Top-25 Nationally
With a block that's improving with each passing week, moved up to the No. 23 spot in national blocking with a 2.87 blocks per game average.
By the Numbers
BYU is a perfect 13-0 this season when it has a higher attack percentage than its opponent and is 10-1 when it has more digs and aces than its opponent.
It is relatively quiet on the injury front for the Cougars. Other than various minor bumps and bruises there is nothing serious.
Carrie Bowers, Lauren Richards and Uila Crabbe are the only Cougars to play in every game this season, as BYU continues to search for its most effective lineup.
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.
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.