The Mountain West Conference-leading Utah Utes volleyball team
has one more step to climb before holding the rights to a
Utah can clench at least a share of the conference title with a
win over Wyoming on Friday. But for CSU to hold on to the other
share of the title, it must defeat the Utes Saturday night.
Regular season play for the MWC concludes this weekend with
perhaps two of the toughest matchups as No. 10 CSU takes on BYU at
7 p.m. Friday in Provo, Utah, and then plays No. 17 Utah at 7 p.m.
Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Utah (20-3, 12-0), CSU (20-3, 11-1) and BYU (16-9, 8-4) round
out the top three teams in the conference, each wanting to take
home the gold.
The Utes and Rams are near perfect opposites. While the Rams
lead the conference in kills (17.38) and hitting percentage (.290),
the Utes lead in blocks (3.28) and opponent hitting percentage
(.135). On Oct. 15 the Utes’ defense won the battle when Utah
stormed Moby Arena and took 3-of-4 games to win in Fort Collins for
the first time in 25 years.
The Utes are 5-0 at home, but the Rams haven’t lost in Salt Lake
Senior middle blocker Lyndsey Henderson leads the Utes in kills
per game (3.93), hitting percentage (.398) and blocks per game
(1.84). Versus CSU this year, sophomore Amie Toone had one solo and
10 block assists; she is second on the team with 1.29 blocks per
game. Sophomore libero Connie Dangerfield is averaging 4.20 digs
The Rams hopes the advantage swings their way after playing Utah
“We know what to expect,” said CSU senior middle blocker Katie
Jo Shirley-Cahoon. “We’re prepared to play them.”
Playing another big blocking team like No. 3 Nebraska over the
weekend also figures to the Rams’ advantage.
“Playing Nebraska will help,” Shirley-Cahoon said. “Playing them
helps us prepare against a team like Utah. You just have to play
fearless. You shouldn’t change the way you hit or play.”
The Rams hitters are led by Shirley-Cahoon, hitting .395, while
junior outside hitter Tess Rogers is killing 3.90 balls per game.
The defense is anchored by sophomore libero Kristen Karlik with
3.42 digs per game and the middle blockers Shirley-Cahoon and
senior Bri Frech with 1.29 and 1.39 blocks per game,
“(Utah) blocks pretty well,” Karlik said. “It’s about putting
yourself in a position to make a play.”
While both teams have already played this season, both have also
changed and grown.
“We’re a different team,” Rogers said. “They’ve probably changed
a few things.”
Before the Utah game, BYU will be on the court, and the Cougars
cannot be dismissed.
The Cougars have lost to Utah twice and CSU and Wyoming once
BYU head coach Lamb said the team will keep concentrating one
game at a time, and the players will be focusing on their team
rather than what the other team is doing.
“Basically it comes down to our side of the net and working on
our game,” Lamb said. “In this point in the year, we aren’t
changing things a lot.”