By Matthew Montague
In its lowest seed ever in the Mountain West Conference volleyball tournament, the No. 4 seed Cougars prepare to battle against No. 5 seed UNLV.
The match is at 4 p.m. Thursday Nov. 21 in Fort Collins, Colo.
The women”s volleyball team enters the match with a 12-16 record on the season and 7-7 in MWC play.
The Rebels are 10-18 on the year with a 6-8 record in the conference.
During the season the two teams split head-to-head matches with the Cougars winning a five game thriller at Las Vegas and UNLV knocking off BYU, 3-1 in Provo.
Entering the match the Rebels have won three of their last four, including a sweep of No. 2 seed San Diego State in three games.
“They seem to be playing well and getting more healthy,” BYU head coach Karen Lamb said. “In order to beat UNLV we have to have strategic serving to keep them out of the offensive things that they want to do.”
The Cougars have struggled the last couple of weeks, losing two of their last three matches heading into the tournament, but look forward to the challenge of the Rebels.
“It will be a good test and we”re going to have to play our best to beat them,” Lamb said. “We”re going to have to play good defense and pass well to win the match.”
The Cougars welcome the return of sophomore outside hitter April Varner who has been sidelined with a sprained ankle.
The last time Varner played in a match was Oct. 21.
Varner practiced this week for the first time and seemed to be pretty comfortable on the ankle.
“It feels great,” Varner said. “I”m so excited to be playing again.”
Varner and senior outside hitter Allison Larson lead the Cougars, averaging 2.88 kills per game.
Larson has led the Cougars in kills for the last two matches.
“I”m the senior and captain and feel like I need to step up and lead the team,” Larson said. “I think we”re going to shine this weekend.”
BYU must have the solid play from Larson to have a shot at winning the MWC tournament.
“We need to have heart,” Larson said. “We have to go out and play our best and work hard for every point.”
Having the MWC tournament in Fort Collins is a good thing for the Cougars.
BYU is 2-5 at home but 5-2 on the road this season in conference play.
Earlier in the season the Cougars went into Fort Collins and stunned the Rams, snapping CSU”s 38-match winning streak in conference play.
After the MWC tournament and before the start of the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars close out its regular season schedule with matches against No. 3 Hawaii, Nov. 26, and No. 16 Arizona, Nov. 29.