Team faces tests in Utah

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    The volleyball team will look to improve upon its 6-4 conference record with two weekend matches in Utah.

    First up for the squad is Brigham Young University, a team the Horned Frogs swept in three straight sets earlier this month. The Cougars have a 3-6 conference record.

    Junior Katelyn Blackwood, who plays the defensive specialist libero position, said she expects a much stiffer challenge from the Cougars this time around.

    “We’re not going in thinking that this is going to be an easy win just because we took them at home,” Blackwood said. “We’re preparing for them just like we would any other opponent.”

    Senior setter Nirelle Hampton said the Cougars have made some changes since their first meeting.

    “I know they’ve done some adjusting with their lineups,” she said. “We’re just focusing on what we need to take care of to make sure that we come out successful again.”

    After their Friday match against BYU, the team will travel about 45 miles north to face the University of Utah on Sunday. Utah beat the Horned Frogs 3-0 when they faced off Oct. 2.

    Head coach Prentice Lewis said her team simply didn’t show up to play for their first match against the Utes.

    “You have to have your team playing their best to know what else they need to do,” Lewis said.

    Lewis said the game plan for Utah will be similar to what it was a month ago.

    “There are some adjustments, things we’ve watched on video of the last month of them playing,” Lewis said.

    Blackwood said the squad has learned from its disappointing loss to Utah the first time around.

    “You never want to get swept,” Blackwood said. “Obviously that’s not something you look forward to, but we’re going to use it as fuel.”

    The team knows Utah will be a tough matchup once again, especially now that the Utes will have home-court advantage.

    “Utah obviously has a lot of size so we’re going in thinking about that,” Blackwood said.

    Utah’s 7-2 conference record puts the squad in second place.

    The Horned Frogs are currently tied with UNLV for fourth place in the conference. Two victories this weekend could give the team a big boost as it heads into the final stretch of conference play.

    “We would love to win out,” Blackwood said. “That would really secure our spot in the NCAA Tournament and that’s our ultimate goal.”

    It won’t get any easier for the Frogs after their weekend trip to Utah. The team will return home to face conference-foe Wyoming next Thursday. Two days later, the Horned Frogs will host conference-leader Colorado State.

    The Horned Frogs will finish out conference play with a Nov. 15 match at Air Force and a Nov. 21 match at New Mexico.