Nov 112004
 
Authors: Stephanie Lindberg

The Mountain West Conference-leading Utah Utes volleyball team

has one more step to climb before holding the rights to a

championship ring.

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

since 2001.

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

per game.

The Rams hopes the advantage swings their way after playing Utah

once already.

“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,

respectively.

“(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

each.

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.”

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