PROVO, Utah — Launching its second season under head coach Shawn Olmstead, the BYU women’s volleyball team heads to Houston for the Rice Invitational Friday and Saturday.

The Cougars will face Arkansas State in their season opener. Friday’s 4:30 p.m. CDT match will be the second time in history the two teams have met, with BYU holding the 1-0 lead. The last time they met was in 1996.

Last season Arkansas State went 20-11 overall and 12-4 in the Sun Belt conference. Allison Kearney, a senior this season, led the offense with 3.50 kills per set in 2011. The team only lost one starter from last season and has three newcomers.

Next on the docket for the Cougars is former Mountain West foe Air Force at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Falcons went 3-27 and 0-14 in conference last season. BYU leads this series 28-1.

The Cougars finish up the tournament playing against the host, Rice, at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Owls recorded an 18-13 overall record in 2011, placing second in Conference U.S.A. with a 13-7 record. All six starters and the libero are returning for Rice this season.

With a 2003 victory against the Owls, BYU increased its series lead to 5-0.

In 2011, BYU went 21-9 during the season and 10-6 in its first year as a member of the West Coast Conference. Five starters return for the Cougars.

In the AVCA Preseason Coaches' Poll, BYU received 12 votes.

Links to live stats can be found on the women’s volleyball schedule page. Live streaming is available for the BYU vs. Rice match with a subscription purchase.

Rachel Hawks is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.