WR #14a - Tuesday Battle for Cougars and Aggies

The Cougars enter their final week of the regular season this week, and will host Utah State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Eastern Michigan on Friday at 7 p.m. The match against the Aggies will be broadcast live on BYUTV and KBYU-TV. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- To kick off its last week of regular-season play, the BYU women's volleyball team will host instate rival Utah State Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.

The match will be televised live on BYUTV and KBYU-TV (Channel 11), and will start one hour earlier than usual.

The Cougars (21-8) are coming off a loss to Utah in the Mountain West Conference Championship semifinals, but have not lost consecutive matches since the second week of the season. The Aggies (18-11) are riding a three-match win streak heading into its regular-season finale against BYU.

"This is an important week for us to get back on track start playing well again," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "Utah State is a very good team. They've improved as the season has progressed and the match will be a challenge for us."

BYU continues to be led by a balanced attack that features three players hitting over .300 and eight players with 100 or more kills. MWC Freshman of the Year Lindsy Hartsock leads the team with a .356 attack percentage to go with 1.22 blocks per game.

Sophomore outside hitter Kim Wilson, who has led the team in kills all year, is averaging a team-high 3.73 kills per game.

The Cougars also remain among the nation's elite blocking teams, ranking in the top 10 averaging 3.12 bpg.

Senior libero and All-MWC selection Uila Crabbe leads the team with 376 digs and .362 digs per game, and needs 26 digs to set the all-time single-season digs record at BYU.

USU has won nine of its last 13 matches, and is led by the duo of rightside hitter Zuzana Cernianska and middle blocker Erin Cartwright who average 4.57 and 4.49 kills per game, respectively.

"The season is a grind, but we have to be prepared to finish strong," Lamb said. "We just have to get back to the basics and have fun playing again."

The BYU women's volleyball team and the volleyball fan club are sponsoring a "Thanks for Good Sports" promotion for all elementary schools in the Provo School District.

Each school that chooses to participate will give a mini volleyball and Fan Club T-shirt to a kindergarten student who has demonstrated good sportsmanship. The school may determine their own process for choosing the student who receives the award. The student's family will also receive a discount into the final two home volleyball matches, against USU Tuesday and Eastern Michigan Friday, where the child's name will be announced.

BYU will close its season later in the week when Eastern Michigan visits the Smith Fieldhouse Friday at 7 p.m.

Weekly Notes:

Week #13 in Review ...

BYU came out as two distinctly different teams in the Mountain West Conference Championship last week. The Cougars started strong with a convincing sweep of Air Force on Thursday, as the team hit a collective .366. The next day in its semifinal match-up against Utah, BYU struggled out of the gate in dropping a three-game decision to the Utes.

This Week

Utah State will visit Provo for an early week match-up with BYU in the Smith Fieldhouse. The match is slated for 6 p.m., one hour earlier than usual. In its season finale, the Cougars will play Eastern Michigan on "Senior Night" at 7 p.m.

Uila's Milestone

Senior libero Uila Crabbe picked up 14 digs in the win over Air Force last week, and in so doing moved past Caroline Bower for fifth in all-time digs at BYU. Currently at 376 digs, Crabbe has matched her total from last year, and needs 26 digs to pass Cherie Sam Fong and set the BYU single-season digs record at BYU.

Looking at the Numbers ...

Will the Cougars win today? A close look at the numbers reveals that BYU is 13-0 this season when winning the first game. All BYU's wins this season have come when the Cougars hold a hitting percentage advantage over their opponents, a perfect 21-0 record.

Acing Air Force

Sophomore setter Lauren Richards set a career-high in aces against Air Force in the first round of the MWC Tournament on Thursday, when she put down eight. Her previous high was five against Ohio State earlier this season. As a team BYU put down 13 aces, one short of its season high, also against Ohio State.

All-Conference Cougars

Three Cougars were named to the MWC All-Conference team as selected by league head coaches. The BYU selections were senior rightside hitter Carrie Bowers, senior libero Uila Crabbe and sophomore setter Lauren Richards.

Fantastic Freshman

The Cougar honors didn't stop there as freshman middle blocker Lindsy Hartsock garnered the MWC Freshman of the Year award. On the year, she's averaging 1.58 kills, 1.22 blocks and 0.37 aces per game, while hitting .356.

The Cougar Stuff

Currently averaging 3.12 blocks per game, the Cougars remain one of the top 10 blocking teams in the nation.

Offensive Cougars

BYU is second-best hitting team in the MWC, hitting at a .258 clip. The Cougars are also the only team with more than two players in the conference top 10 for hitting percentage. The Cougars have four players ranked in the top 10 (3-Lindsy Hartsock .356; 4-Lexi Brown .353; 6-Laura Nielsen .325; 10-Carrie Bowers .296).

BYU Balance

Demonstrating depth and distribution, the Cougars are the only team in the MWC to have eight players with over 100 kills.

Not a Middling Bunch

All three middle blockers on the BYU active roster are hitting over .300 on the year (Lindsy Hartsock .356; Lexi Brown .353; and Laura Nielsen .325). They are hitting a collective .346 (400-106-849).

Season Notes:

Crabbe passes 1,000

Senior libero Uila Crabbe put up 16 digs against Utah, Nov. 7. In the second game of that match, she passed the 1,000 dig mark, to become only the sixth Cougar to reach that mark. She needs 43 digs to pass Caroline Bower (1,052) for fifth all-time at BYU.

BYU Attendance

BYU is ranked 26th nationally in average attendance. The Cougars average 1,323 fans per match at the Smith Fieldhouse, second in the Mountain West Conference (Colorado State -- 1,390) BYU has played at home 12 times this season, and 10 matches have seen crowds of over 1,000. In the other two matches, there was a scheduling overlap with BYU home football games.

Injury Update

It is relatively quiet on the injury front for the Cougars. Other than various minor bumps and bruises there is nothing serious.

Home Sweet Home

With the conclusion of its MWC regular season schedule, BYU stands 10-2 at home in the Smith Fieldhouse. It is in stark contrast to 2002, and the Cougars' have more than doubled their home wins from last season when they went 4-12 at home. The Cougars still have two home matches remaining this season on Thanksgiving week against Utah State on Nov. 25 and Eastern Michigan on Nov. 28.

Turnaround Cougars

In 2002, BYU had 14 wins total. With the team's 21st win against Air Force Thursday, the Cougars have won 21 matches this season. The seven-win improvement is tied for the eighth best in the country and best in the MWC.

Poll Position

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 Oct. 13. 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.

Iron Women

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. Crabbe has played in every game since the start of the 2001 season.

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.

Milestone Manner

Sophomore setter Lauren Richards collected 34 assists against Air Force on Nov. 1 to put her over the 1,000-assist mark at 1,007, to mark the first milestone she has hurdled in her young career.

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