PROVO After losing the first game to No. 25 UNLV, the BYU volleyball team came back strong to defeat the Rebels, 27-30, 32-30, 30-23, 30-23.
The victory gives BYU a tie with UNLV for second place in the Mountain West Conference after No. 17 Colorado State swept New Mexico on the final night of the regular season to capture the conference championship. The Cougars will hold down the third seed in the conference tournament, however, after losing the tiebreaker to UNLV.
BYU will play its first conference tournament match at 11 a.m. on Thursday in Las Vegas and will most likely have to go through the Rebels on their home court to take the tourney title. UNLV is undefeated at home in MWC action.
"I've never thought of us as not being one of those top two teams (in the MWC). It's nice to come in tied at second with UNLV, and we will have to go through UNLV to win the tournament," said BYU coach Jason Watson, who believes the Cougars have built themselves a little momentum heading into the tourney.
"It was nice to win. I felt that UNLV pushed us to elevate our game. It's significant because next week we leave for the conference tournament," he added.
The team has been picking up its game for the past few weeks, and the Cougars feel like they are playing their best ball of the season right now.
"I think we're doing a good job of playing our best right now. We're excited to be going into the conference tournament (on a high note)," said BYU middle blocker Rachel Dyer.
It was the Cougars' last home match of the 2007 season, leaving the five seniors a little emotional about saying goodbye and the rest of the team a little emotional about watching them leave.
"Going into the match, I didn't really think about it. I just wanted to beat these guys, to get them back," said a highly competitive Chelsea Goodman, who finished the match with her 19th double double of the season and the MWC-record 53rd of her career. She recorded a game-high 23 kills and 11 digs in the match.
But she wasn't the only Cougar to rack up some impressive numbers. Amy Schlauder also recorded a double double, her second of the year, with 57 assists and a career-high 18 digs. She added a career-high nine blocks to her impressive effort, coming one block from putting a triple double on the board.
Dyer finished with 17 kills and 10 blocks to put up her third double double of the season, and Erica Lott added 20 digs to her 13 kills. Bryn Porter added some impressive numbers of her own with 10 digs and 10 kills in the four-game match.
Senior libero Annie Pineger finished with 26 digs in the match and one impressive kill on a dig that flew over the net and landed on the right sideline for the point.
The Cougars took leads in each of the four games but allowed the Rebels right back into things in Games 1 and 2. They held onto those leads better in the third and fourth games, which eventually led to the victory.
"It's a game of runs. What we are trying to do is extend those leads, and what they're trying to do is catch up. That's the key is to absorb their runs and then get some distance, stretch those leads," said Watson.Lauren Miramontes led the Rebels with 22 kills in the match, followed by Erin Greenwood and Maria Aladjova with 15 each.