Collision course

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

It’s on.

The top two teams in the Mountain West Conference face off on Crimson Court tonight when the No. 9 U volleyball team hosts its rival, No. 17 BYU.

“There aren’t going to be any motivation issues for us this week,” said U head coach Beth Launiere. “We just need to be prepared to play a good volleyball team and I know the energy level will be there.”

The Utes come into the match after picking up a pair of victories last weekend, downing both San Diego State and UNLV to remain flawless (10-0) in conference play.

Meanwhile, the Cougars head into the contest after winning their last six matches. BYU hasn’t lost a match since Sept. 29 when the Utes went down to Provo and handed the Cougs a 3-1 defeat. The Utes utilized a diverse offensive attack to break through the Cougar front line and snag the victory. Outside-hitter Kathryn Lovell was one of four Utes to register more than 10 kills as she led the U with 18 in the match.

BYU was without its biggest offensive threat in the match, as outside-hitter Erica Lott was absent because of a back injury. But fellow outside-hitter Chelsea Goodman filled the void for the Cougars, picking up 18 kills in the losing effort.

The Cougars will have all of their weapons this time around with Lott recovering from a back injury and middle-blocker Rachel Dyer returning after missing two weeks with a foot injury.

Injuries or not, Lott has been a vital piece of the Cougar offense this season, averaging 4.26 kills per game to rank second in the Mountain West.

On the other side, outside-hitter Goodman continues to lead her team and the conference on offense, picking up an impressive 4.40 kills per game.

“BYU is a very good team,” said U outside-hitter Kate Robison. “They run a very fast offense and have two great hitters on the outside.”

Another critical outlet of offense for the Cougars has been outside-hitter Kim Wilson-Sorensen. The senior averages 2.80 kills per game and has been coming on strong lately.

“Kim Wilson is a three-year starter and had to sit out last season with a shoulder injury,” Launiere said. “She’s just now getting back to form and is really playing well. She was all-conference a couple of years ago.”

Settting the three-headed Cougar monster is sophomore Amy Schlauder. Schlauder was inactive for the last outing against the Utes, but returns to action in time for the second round.

Defensively, BYU has one of the more dominating blockers in the nation in Lindsy Hartsock. The senior averages 1.62 blocks per game from her middle position, which ranks her second in the conference and 14th in the nation.

“We have to focus on hitting high against Lindsy. She’s a big presence in the middle and we’ll probably try to set away from her.”

Anything that gets past Hartsock will be fielded by Cougar libero Janvier Beaumont. The sophomore carries a 3.07 dig-per-game average, but has her work cut out for her in stopping a potent U offensive attack.

“We’re both improved teams since the last time we met,” Launiere said. “They got over some injuries and they are playing good volleyball right now. I feel like it’s a colossal collision of two great volleyball teams. It’s going to be a battle.”

The Utes and Cougars lead the MWC in nearly every category and both have just two losses all season. Both have a dominant blocker on defense and a slew of weapons on offense. This has all of the makings of a classic showdown.

Lennie Mahler

Airial Salvo makes an attack against UNLV during the Utes’ win Sunday. Tonight, the Utes match up against BYU at Crimson Court after defeating the Cougars 3-1 in Provo on Sept. 29.