Cougars Open Second Haf of MWC Play

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    By Stacy Thiot

    The BYU women”s volleyball team returns home this weekend to start the second half of conference play, competing against TCU Friday night and New Mexico Saturday night. Both games will start at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse and can be seen on BYU-TV.

    BYU (10-9, 3-6 MWC) is looking to use its home-court advantage and win against two teams which defeated the Cougars earlier in the month.

    “We see this weekend at home as an opportunity to get back on track and to make a difference in the second half of conference play,” BYU head coach Shay Goulding said. “We know we have what it takes to finish strong and make an impact.”

    The Cougars have been struggling with a five-game losing streak this month, but improved last week with their first win since Sept. 27, sweeping Air Force. BYU then lost to No. 3 Texas in three sets last Friday.

    “It”s always been a goal of ours to be good at home,” senior outside hitter Bryn Porter said. “We had tough losses to [TCU and New Mexico] on the road, so we”re excited to defend the fieldhouse this weekend.”

    Junior Kayla Walker led the Cougars with 2.83 kills per set while also adding 1.67 digs and 1.33 blocks. Walker also had 10 kills and six blocks at Air Force. Sophomore libero Melissa Lake tied her career high 18 digs against the Falcons.

    The Cougars usually play well in the Smith Fieldhouse despite losing their last three matches at home. BYU won its first four matches of 2008 on the Elaine Michaelis Court while going 33-4 at home over the past three seasons.

    “We haven”t played well lately,” junior outside hitter Stephanie Lau said. “But I feel like we have become a better team since the beginning of the season, we just need to perform the way we know we can.”

    Despite the lack of wins, the Cougars are second in service aces and fourth in digs in the Mountain West Conference.

    TCU is 17-6 overall and 6-4 in the MWC this season after beginning the year with 10 straight wins. Lauren Otto leads the Horned Frogs in kills and is tied for fifth in the MWC with 3.13 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Kourtney Edwards is tied for sixth in the conference with 1.19 blocks per set while junior Katelyn Blackwood is third in the MWC with 3.94 blocks per set.

    BYU is 11-1 against the Horned Frogs after losing at TCU on Oct. 4.

    New Mexico is 17-4 overall and 7-3 in MWC play this season after winning their first eight matches. Two of the Lobos” losses came against ranked teams: No. 2 Nebraska and No. 13 Colorado State. Senior outside hitter Jeanne Fairchild leads the team and the MWC in kills with 4.28 per set and 5.20 points. Senior libero Gayle Tripp is second in the conference with 4.65 digs per set.

    BYU leads the all-time series against the Lobos at 62-9, including a loss at New Mexico on Oct. 2.

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