Top-25 Teams Meet at BYU

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The University of Utah volleyball team will head to Provo?s Smith Field House to square off against rival BYU tonight at 7:00 p.m. The game will be the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

The Cougars are traditionally trouble for Utah. The Utes? all-time record against BYU is 7-60, and the Utes are just 1-27 in Provo.

The Utes come into the game 4-2, while the Cougars have amassed a record of 5 1. BYU?s only loss has come against Texas, but the Cougars are currently on a four-game winning streak.

The Utes are coming off a comeback victory versus the Colorado Buffaloes. Utah came back from a two games to zero deficit to win the last three games.

Both teams are currently ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Top 25 poll, with BYU ranked No. 14 and Utah at No. 21.

Considering the implications of this match, coach Beth Launiere said, ?Everyone on the team knows that this is a very big match. Not only is it BYU, but it is a very big game nationally as well.?

The Utes have not done well on the road this year, going 0-2 in Arizona, however, coach Launiere feels they have fixed the problem that has been plaguing them.

?I believe we have addressed the problem for our road games,? Launiere said. ?We have been having our best practices of the year this past week.?

The Cougars are led by first team All-American Middle Blocker Nina Puikkonen. Puikkonen is third in the conference in kills by averaging 3.87 per game.

Even though Puikkonen is an All-American, teammate Sunny Mahe might be playing the best volleyball in the conference.

She received the award for MWC Player of the Week. Mahe is averaging 3.48 kills per game, and her hitting efficiency is up to .358.

?Sunny is probably playing the best out of all their great hitters, and she is going to be a big threat in the game,? Launiere said.

Setting the ball for the Cougars will be sophomore Karina Puikkonen, the sister of Nina Puikkonen.

Karina is currently fourth in the conference in assists, averaging 11.83 assists per game.

The Utes are going to have to get outstanding play out of the captains McKelle Stilson, Adrianne Bradley-Drake and Alisa Geddes in order to compete. Sylva Strzinkova will need to provide many kills, adding to her team leading 60.

The freshman setters will be under fire. However, Launiere believes they have the ability to come through in this match. ?Right now, they are playing very well, and they are practicing more than the rest of the team.?

The Utes will have to play a complete game, and they cannot get lackadaisical as they did against Colorado in the first two games. Launiere believes this team can win.

?We have the talent and we have played the competition to get us ready for this game. I believe we can win this game,? she said.

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