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The BYU women's volleyball team invaded Europe during the summer and came back a better team for it.

"I wasn't too excited about Cougar volleyball in the spring. We were so young and making so many adjustments, and we really hadn't come together," veteran BYU coach Elaine Michaelis admitted. "But by the time we finished our Europe trip, I knew the Cougars were going to be back."BYU played seven matches against quality competition in Europe, winning five matches. Setter Laci Olmstead, who will replace All-American Charlene Johnson, started to come into her own during the summer tour.

"Laci did a great job (in Europe), and everybody was so supportive of one another," Michaelis said. "Some of the conditions we had to handle on the trip were not the easiest, but those kind of experiences tend to bring you closer together, and we bonded well."

This weekend the three-time defending WAC-champion Cougars open the 1995 season in the Washington State Invitational. BYU's first home matches will be Sept. 7-9 when it hosts the Mizuno Invitational. This year's field includes Minnesota, Georgia and nationally ranked Colorado.

The Cougars return four starters from last year's team - although two, both outside hitters, have new names. Junior Gale Oborn is now Gale Johnson, while sophomore Angie Walker is now Angie Tanner. Both were married during the offseason.

The other returning starters are Ann-Mari Lindqvist and sophomore Amy Steele.

Additonal returnees include sophomore Heather Whittaker and Olmstead, a junior. Redshirt freshmen Korie Rogers and Helen Hjorth will be counted on to contribute immediately. Cougar basketball star Debbie Dimond Freeland, whose hoops eligibility is up, will play volleyball for the first time since high school.

The Cougars are 60-4 (.938) in the five years the WAC has sponsored women's volleyball but aren't expected to win the league this year. San Diego State was chosen as the favorite in the coaches' preseason poll with BYU second. The Cougars are ranked No. 13 in the preseason AVCA poll, several notches ahead of the Aztecs, however.

"We're working together great and really improving," Olmstead said. "There is no doubt in my mind that we'll challenge for the WAC title. We'll be tough to beat."



BYU women's volleyball schedule

Date Opponent

Sept. 1-2 Washington State Invitational

Sept. 7-9 BYU Mizuno Invitational

Sept. 15-16 Utah Centennial Classic (BYU, U., USU, Weber)

Sept. 22 at Utah

Sept. 29 Colorado State

Sept. 30 Wyoming

Oct. 6 at Fresno State

Oct. 7 at San Diego State

Oct. 13 New Mexico

Oct. 14 Texas-El Paso

Oct. 17 at Weber State

Oct. 20 Utah

Oct. 27 Texas A&M

Nov. 3 at Wyoming

Nov. 4 at Colorado State

Nov. 10 San Diego State

Nov. 11 Fresno State

Nov. 17 at Texas-El Paso

Nov. 18 at New Mexico

Nov. 23-24 Long Beach State Invitational

Nov. 29 NCAA First Round

Dec. 2 NCAA Second Round

Dec. 7-10 NCAA Regionals

Dec. 14-16 NCAA Finals