Utes prepared for BYU?s offense

By By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

The rivalry is renewed when BYU makes its way to Crimson Court tonight to take on the Utah volleyball team.

BYU enters the match with a 6-6 record on the year. However, just like the Utes, the Cougars are fresh off defeating San Diego State and Air Force in the opening week of conference play.

Head coach Beth Launiere said she expects the match to be competitive.

“They’ll be good,” she said. “They’ve got a dominant player in Kayla Walker. We’ll gear some of our defense towards her.”

Walker has warranted attention with her play. She was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week after registering a 32-kill match against San Diego State, which is the third highest amount of kills in a match in conference history. She hit .500 for the match and topped off the week by smacking 10 kills to go along with three blocks against Air Force. For the year, Walker is leading the conference in kills per set with 4.06.
Senior middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg said Walker hits the ball from a high angle, something the Utes are not used to.

“We’re just going to have to dig her angle,” Sandberg said. “She’s a good high hitter. We’re going to have to prepare for her to hit into the back row.”

The Cougars’ other main offensive weapon is Christina Measom. The junior middle blocker has compiled 105 kills on the year, averaging 2.19 kills per set.

Utah will counter with an offense of its own that ranks among the top in the Mountain West. The Utes are the league’s leading hitters so far this season. They have posted a .252 hitting percentage through their first 13 matches, which is good for first in the conference, edging out TCU by .027. Sandberg is pacing the Utes with a .386 hitting mark, and ranks second in the conference. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Hibbert’s 2.96 kills per set ranks sixth among conference players.

Defensively, BYU leads the conference in blocks per set with 2.7. Individually, freshman middle blocker Nicole Warner is tied for second place in the conference, averaging 1.25 blocks per set. The Cougars have three other players who are registering at least .80 blocks per set, with Measom averaging .85, sophomore outside hitter Christie Carpenter averaging .84 and junior setter Kiana Rogers with .83.

Sandberg said the Utes will be ready for BYU, and she doesn’t believe the Cougars present as much of a challenge as some of the other teams Utah has faced this season.
Tonight will be Launiere’s first attempt at notching her 400th career win. She has compiled a record of 399-217 in her 20 years as head coach of the Utes.

The match also holds significance at a higher level, as it is the first matchup between the Utes and the Cougars in the 2009-10 Deseret First Duel. The winner of tonight’s match will be awarded points that count toward naming an overall athletic champion between the two schools.

Although BYU leads the all-time series against Utah 56-23, the Utes captured both meetings a season ago, including a five-set victory at Crimson Court that saw junior opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak record a season-high 13 kills.

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