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Cougars, Utes open MWC volleyball tournament play with sweeps

LAS VEGAS — The top-seeded Cougars began their quest for the Mountain West Conference volleyball tournament title Thursday with a sweep over eighth-seeded TCU, marking BYU's 13th three-game win of the season.

"I was very pleased with our performance over time tonight, especially in coming from behind and going on a 20-8 run to win game three," said BYU head coach Jason Watson. "Both Lindsy Hartsock and Rachel Dyer were very efficient, and it was good to get Lexi Patterson involved. She has been steadily improving and continues to progress."

Dyer led BYU with 11 kills on the night while All-MWC outside hitter Chelsea Goodman added 10 kills and a career-high five blocks. Patterson hit .583 to lead the Cougars while MWC Player of the Year Lindsy Hartsock hit .500, her 15th match hitting .500 or better. As a team, BYU hit .330 while allowing TCU to hit just .164.

With the quarterfinal win, BYU now advances to the semifinals of the MWC Tournament with a 24-2 overall record. The Cougars will take on the winner of Thursday night's match between Tournament-host UNLV and San Diego State, both of which the Cougars swept in the season-series this year. The match will begin at 8 p.m. PST and will be televised live on CSTV.

UTAH SWEEPS WYOMING: In one of the morning matches Thursday, No. 3-seeded University of Utah (20-8) advanced the MWC semifinals for the seventh straight year by sweeping No. 6 Wyoming (12-16) in three games.

Game scores were 30-24, 30-23 and 30-18.

"I thought we played a complete match," said head coach Beth Launiere. "We stayed in control the entire time and every time they got a run, we answered.

"That was one of our best blocking matches of the year. We averaged six blocks per game. That's off the charts."

The Utes hit .342 for the match and were led by Airial Salvo's 12 kills. Shelly Sommerfeldt collected 11 kills but hit a smooth .370.

Utah held the Cowgirls to .102 hitting and out-blocked them 18-3.5. Emillie Toone led the Utes at the net with 10 total blocks. She nearly had a double-double with nine kills on .412 hitting.

USU ADVANCES TO WAC SEMIS: Carolyn Forbush recorded a career-high 23 kills to lead second-seeded Utah State to a four-game win — 26-30, 31-29, 30-16, 30-27 — against seventh-seeded Fresno State in the first round of the 2005 Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament Thursday afternoon.

With the win, Utah State (20-11) advances to the semi-finals of the WAC Tournament and will face New Mexico State (20-6) today at 5 p.m.. New Mexico State, the third-seed in the tournament, defeated sixth-seeded San Jose State in four games earlier in the day.

The win for Utah State also marked the third time in the last six years that it has won 20 games in a season.

Forbush recorded her fourth double-double in the last five matches for Utah State as she added 12 digs in the contest to go along with 23 kills as she hit .356 in the match. Zuzana Cernianska had 17 kills for USU, while Kelsi Peterson recorded a match-high 23 digs.

Overall, Utah State hit .248 in the match and held Fresno State to a .116 hitting percentage.

MWC AWARDS: BYU junior Lindsy Hartsock was named Mountain West Conference's Player of the Year, while Utah's Airial Salvo was voted Freshman of the Year. BYU's Jason Watson is MWC Coach of the Year.

Hartsock, a 6-foot-4 native of Inkom, Idaho, finished the regular season leading as the nation's most efficient attacker, with an attack percentage of .442. She also averages 2.76 kills and 1.16 blocks per game.

Salvo, an outside hitter from Farmington, tallied the conference's highest freshmen ranking in kills per game (3.24), while tallying a hitting percentage of .244 and averaging a team-high 0.27 service aces per game.

Watson was honored in his first season at the helm. He led the Cougars to a 23-2 overall record and 12-2 conference mark, as BYU collected its first MWC regular-season crown since 1999.

Local players also on on the all-MWC first team:

Lauren Richards Evans, BYU, Setter of the Year, third time all-MWC selection.

Shelly Sommerfeldt, Utah, third time all-MWC selection.

Chelsea Goodman, BYU, outside hitter.

Erica Lott, BYU, outside hitter.

Also named to the first team were: Colorado State's Dre Downs, Tess Rogers and Casey Bauer; San Diego State's Aime Cordeiro and Lindsey Noll; UNLV's Maria Aladjova and Lauren Miramontes; and Wyoming's Rachel Smith.

WAC AWARDS: Utah State's Zuzana Cernianska and Ingrid Roth were both named first-team all-Western Athletic Conference, while Erin Graybill earned second-team all-WAC honors as announced Wednesday.

It is the fourth time in the last six years that Utah State has had at least two players earn first-team all-league honors, and the first time since 2001 that USU has had three or more players earn all-league honors.

Cernianska, a senior from Prague, Czech Republic, becomes the first player in school history to earn first-team all-conference honors three straight years. This season, she leads the WAC with 4.62 kills per game, and set a new single-season kills record at Utah State with 531. She also leads the team in service aces (32), and is second on the team in digs (299).

SLCC NINTH AT NJCAAS: The Salt Lake Community College women's volleyball team left the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship tournament in West Plains, Mo., on Wednesday with a ninth-place finish.

The 11th-seeded Bruins defeated ninth-seed Pasco-Herdando Community College (Fla.) 24-30, 30-23, 30-27, 30-20 in the ninth-place game.

Salt Lake started the tournament Monday losing to No. 6 Arkansas-Fort Smith 36-34, 26-30, 32-30, 30-21. The Arkansas team had lost only one match all season.

Then in the consolation bracket, SLCC defeated No. 14 Sheridan College (Wyo.) 30-27, 23-30, 30-22, 30-17 on Monday and 10th-seed San Jacinto College-Central 30-26, 28-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-10 on Tuesday.

Fabiana Leomil, a 5-foot-10 freshman outside hitter for SLCC, has been named a NJCAA first-team all-American. Setter Priscila Dores was named to the second team.