By ROSEMARY LARSEN
BYU’s sixth-ranked women’s volleyball team will host New Mexico and UTEP to open the second round of Western Athletic Conference play this weekend. On the first weekend of WAC competition in late September, BYU beat UTEP 15-3, 15-6, 15-0 and defeated New Mexico 15-1, 15-7, 15-7.
The Cougars take on the Lobos tonight at 7 in the Smith Fieldhouse. New Mexico is fifth in the WAC, but is still expected to provide a high-level of volleyball.
“New Mexico has improved over what they were when we played them last month,” said BYU coach Elaine Michaelis. “They’re a young team and they have more experience now.”
The Lobos have a season record of 10-10 and a WAC record of 3-4. They are hitting .175 as a team and opponents are hitting .194.
Sophomore Amber Smith leads the offense for the Lobos with an average of 3.84 kills per game. She is followed by junior Paula Feathers whose game average is 2.98 kills.
None of the scheduled starters for New Mexico are seniors which makes the Lobos a younger team than the Cougars, who start with three seniors on the court.
Saturday night the Cougars will be back in the Smith Fieldhouse to play UTEP. The Miners (12-6) are hitting .217 as a team and are holding their opponents to .185.
The Cougars are hitting .287 and keeping their opponents to a .145 hitting percentage.
“UTEP is a good blocking team, so it will come down to serving and passing in that match,” Michaelis said.
The Cougars are also a good blocking team with WAC block record holder, Amy Steele Gant still adding to her career-best 613 blocks. As a team, BYU averages 3.10 blocks per game.
Other Cougar starters include Anna-Lena Smith, Korie Rogers, Rachel Greene, Andrea Petrilli, Helen Hjorth and Heather Whittaker. The Cougars are averaging 16.97 kills per game along with 15.25 digs.
Following the matches this weekend, the Cougars travel to Wyoming and Colorado next Friday and Saturday for two of their final three away matches of the season.
Sophomore outside hitter Caroline Steuer is still out of the lineup after injuring her knee Sept. 16 against Utah State. Steuer has been diagnosed with a partially torn ACL. She is currently rehabilitating the knee and began limited practice with the team this week.