WR #15 - Cougars and Aggies in the First Round of NCAAs

HONOLULU -- In the first round of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the BYU Cougars will face New Mexico State Thursday at 5 p.m. (HST), 8 p.m. (MST) in the Stan Sheriff Center.

Hosted by No. 2 University of Hawai`i, the winner of the BYU vs. NMSU match-up will play the winner of Hawai`i vs. Idaho Friday at 7 p.m. (HST), 10 p.m. (MST).

BYU (23-8) is ninth in all-time wins in the NCAA Tournament with a 26-10 record, including an 11-4 record in first round matches (excluding byes). The Cougars' top finish in the NCAA Tournament was in 1993 when they advanced to the Final Four.

"I feel confident with where our team is at this point," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "This late in the season there's no time to reinvent the wheel. We do what we do and we'll do a little bit of strategy adjustment, but we will play with our strengths."

It is a homecoming for senior libero Uila Crabbe, who prepped at nearby Kamehameha High School, and is a native of Mililani. She led the Mountain West Conference this season with 409 digs and 3.65 digs per game. Crabbe also became the sixth BYU player to surpass 1,000 career digs and in her last home match, set the single-season digs record at BYU.

The BYU defense also features one of the nation's top-blocking units. Averaging 3.12 blocks per game, the Cougars ranked No. 11 in the country entering play last week.

Offensively the Cougars have a diversified attack, as eight players have 100 or more kills on the season. Sophomore outside hitter Kim Wilson leads the way with 353 kills (3.68 kpg) and 851 attempts on the year.

The Aggies (30-4) will be participating in their first-ever NCAA Tournament and are the champions of the Sun Belt Conference. They have won 24 matches in a row entering the tournament.

"New Mexico State is a well-coached team," Lamb said. "But I don't think that they run a type of offense that we haven't seen this year. It will be on the players and the team that sustains pressure through the entire match will win."

Lamb enters her first NCAA Tournament as a head coach and will seek to lead BYU to its first tournament win since defeating Utah State in the second round in 2000.

The Cougars have qualified for 21 of 23 NCAA Tournaments, and with 924 wins, are the third-winningest women's volleyball program in NCAA Division I history.

"The girls are excited to play," Lamb said. "We were lucky to have fit in a practice just after we landed on Tuesday, to get a little more acclimated to the environment. We're confident and we're ready to go."

Weekly Notes:

Week #14 in Review ...

The Cougars came out a luckless team in the first and second games against Utah State on Tuesday. After quickly falling into a 0-2 hole, BYU staged a thrilling comeback against the Aggies. Defense led the way, as BYU put up a season-high 99 digs to go with 17 blocks. It marked the third time this season that BYU has come from 0-2 down to win a match. Previously this season, BYU defeated Air Force and San Diego State after making up similar deficits. On "Senior Night" Friday, the Cougars recognized outgoing players Carrie Bowers, Uila Crabbe, Laura Nielsen and Sahara Castillo. BYU then proceeded to take three straight from Eastern Michigan.

Selection Sunday

For the 21st time in the 23-year existence of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the BYU women's volleyball team has qualified for the 64-team tournament. BYU was chosen as one of 33 at-large teams for the single-elimination event. The Cougars (23-8 overall) will play New Mexico State (30-4) Thursday at 5 p.m. (HST), 8 p.m. (MST) in a first-round match-up hosted by the University of Hawai`i. The winner of the BYU and NMSU match will play the winner between No. 2-seeded Hawai`i and Idaho Friday at 7 p.m. (HST), 10 p.m. (MST). BYU is the ninth-winningest team in NCAA Tournament history with a 26-20 record, and will be going up against a NMSU team that is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Uila's Milestone

This has been a banner season for All-MWC senior libero Uila Crabbe. In 2003, she has picked up her 1,000th career dig and she moved past Caroline Bower (1,052) to move into fifth in all-time digs at BYU and against Eastern Michigan, Crabbe broke the BYU single-season record for digs, passing Cherie Sam Fong (401). Crabbe currently has 409 digs, with play in the NCAA Tournament remaining in her career.

Looking at the Numbers ...

Will the Cougars win today? A close look at the numbers reveals that BYU is 14-0 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 23-0 record.

The Cougar Stuff

BYU was averaging 3.12 blocks per game entering the week, which placed them as the No. 11 blocking team in the nation.

Welcome Home Uila

The last time the Cougars were set to leave for Hawai`i was for an early season tournament on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We try to get our kids over to play Hawai`i on a regular basis, so those from the area can have their family and friends come and watch," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "With 9/11, though, there were obviously more important things to worry about at the time, and our trip was cancelled.

"Now I it's kind of fitting for us to be able to go down there. I'm happy for Uila (Crabbe), and I'm happy that she will have the opportunity to play in front of her family and friends."

Not a Middling Bunch

All three middle blockers on the BYU active roster are hitting over .300 on the year (Lexi Brown .368; Lindsy Hartsock .350 and Laura Nielsen .320). They are hitting a collective .350 (462-116-988).

Cougar Player of the Week: The Brown Bomber Continues to Strike

Sophomore middle blocker Lexi Brown has become an integral part of the BYU offense as the season has progressed. She has consistently provided timely kills, but she has also become one of the top Cougar blockers as well. Last week she provided an all-around game in leading BYU over Utah State and Eastern Michigan.

Brown led BYU in kills for the fifth time this season against Utah State. Her 18 kills set a career-high, besting her previous high of 16 kills. Against the Aggies, Brown hit a match-high .459, while the Cougars, as a team hit .176. Seven players in all had double-digit kills in the match, but the Aggies' Erin Davis recorded the next highest attack percentage, hitting at a .222 rate. Brown capped the 0-2 comeback win over the Aggies with a kill to seal the match in the fifth game, 15-12.

Against Eastern Michigan, Brown played two games recording seven kills with a .500 attack percentage. In the two matches Brown only committed two total attack errors, one in each match. For the week Brown hit .469, besting her season average entering the week of .364.

Brown recorded her first career double-double against Utah State with 18 kills and 10 blocks. She also recorded seven digs, missing a triple-double by three digs.

She has now led the Cougars in kills in six matches this season, in which BYU is 6-0. All six of Brown's team-leading efforts have come in the Cougars' last nine matches. Included in Brown's run is leading BYU to a pair of five-game wins after being down 0-2 to San Diego State and Utah State.

Brown put up a season-high 10 blocks against Utah State. The next highest blocking output by a Cougar in the match was six by Lindsey Metcalf. Against the Aggies, Brown also put up a career-high seven digs.

Season Notes:

Defense Wins Matches

The need for stellar defensive play was never more apparent than on Nov. 25 against Utah State. Down 0-2, it was the Cougars' defense that kept play alive and scored points. When the dust settled in the BYU win, the Cougars had recorded a season-high 99 digs to go with 17 blocks.

Are You Digging Me?

Senior rightside hitter Carrie Bowers had a career-high 22 digs against Utah State, Nov. 25, almost doubling her previous career-high 12. With 15 kills to go with it, Bowers posted the second double-double of her career.

Consistent Cougars

The Cougars have lost consecutive matches only once this season. It came in the first two weeks of the season, when BYU lost to then-No. 4 Florida and then lost a five-game decision to Arkansas.

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 Nov. 20, 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 1.59 kills, 1.21 blocks and 0.37 aces per game, while hitting .350.

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.

BYU Attendance

BYU is ranked 26th nationally in average attendance. The Cougars average 1,279 fans per match at the Smith Fieldhouse, second in the Mountain West Conference to Colorado State. BYU has played at home 14 times this season, and 11 matches have seen crowds of over 1,000.

Injury Update

It is relatively quiet on the injury front for the Cougars. Other than various minor bumps and bruises there is nothing serious. It is in stark contrast to 2002, when the Cougars had numerous players miss extensive playing time because of injury.

Home Sweet Home

The Cougars have warmed to the confines of the Smith Fieldhouse this season, tune to a 12-2 record. BYU is 7-0 at home against non-conference foes. That is in stark contrast to last season when BYU went 4-12 at home.

BYU Balance

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

Turnaround Cougars

In 2002, BYU had 14 wins total. With the team's 23rd win against Eastern Michigan Friday, the Cougars have won 23 matches this season. The nine-win improvement is tied for the sixth 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.

Cougars Selected as Mountain West Conference Players of the Week

DEC. 1 - LEXI BROWN - First career award. A 6-1 sophomore from Sandy, Utah (Jordan HS), Brown led the Cougars to a pair of key victories. In a five-game win over Utah State, Brown tallied a team- and career-high 18 kills and 10 blocks as she helped rally BYU from an 0-2 deficit in the match. She hit .459 (18-1-37) and added seven digs vs. the Aggies. The Cougars are now 5-0 when Brown leads the team in kills this season. In a sweep of Eastern Michigan, Brown totaled seven kills and three blocks in just two games played. For the week, Brown averaged 3.57 kills, 1.14 digs and 1.86 blocks per game, while hitting .469 (25-3-49).

SEPT. 15 - LAUREN RICHARDS - First career award. A 6-0 sophomore from Orem, Utah (Timpanogos HS), Richards entered last week's Mizuno Classic with just six starting assignments as setter for BYU, but was able to lead the Cougars to the tournament title with stellar all-around play. Under Richards' direction last week, BYU hit .234 (compared to opponents .177) despite facing two top-25 blocking teams (Penn State-11, Ohio State-25). Five Cougars hit .250 or better and three averaged at least 3.0 kills per game, including 4.31 kills per game by Classic MVP Kim Wilson. Although BYU struggled with a team hitting percentage of .167 (54-28-156) in a win over Big Ten power Ohio State, Richards stepped up with a .417 hitting percentage (7-2-12), totaling seven kills, 41 assists, nine digs, five aces and a career-high five blocks. In a victory over Rice, Richards collected 52 assists, 10 digs and four blocks to mark her fifth double-double of the season. In the win over No. 8 Penn State, Richards recorded another double-double with 55 assists and 11 digs, while topping her previous career-high with six blocks vs. the Nittany Lions, who entered the Classic as the No. 3 hitting team in the nation (.352). For the week, Richards averaged 11.38 assists, 2.31 digs, 1.62 kills, 1.15 blocks and .54 aces per game.

SEPT. 2 - CARRIE BOWERS - First career award. A 6-2 senior from Salt Lake City, Utah (Highland HS), Bowers earned all-tournament team honors at the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, which was hosted by Florida, while leading the Cougars to a 2-1 record. She posted a .556 hitting percentage (22-2-36) in a victory over American and topped that with a career-high .583 percentage (15-1-24) in a win vs. Rutgers. In BYU's only loss of the week at No. 3 Florida, Bowers posted a .243 hitting percentage (13-4-37) despite a team percentage of .052 vs. the Gators. In the three matches, Bowers averaged 5.0 kills, 1.7 digs and .70 blocks per game, while hitting .443. Her 50 kills for the week were nearly 1/3 of the BYU total (151) in that span.

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