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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 23, 2007) - In the classic battle volleyball fans were expecting, BYU's Mountain West Conference Tournament title hopes came to an end in a five-game (35-33, 22-30, 31-29, 24-30, 16-14) loss at second-seeded UNLV on Friday night. The Cougars will now hope for an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament when selections are announced Sunday at 6 p.m. MT on ESPNU.
Senior Chelsea Goodman led the Cougars with 22 kills while Ashton Hansen posted a career high with 18, Bryn Porter tallied 16, Rachel Dyer contributed 16 and Erica Lott added 12. Three Cougars topped the 20-dig mark for the first time this season as Pinegar recorded 31, tying for the fifth-most in program history, Goodman notched a season-high 26 and Lott contributed a career-best 21. BYU recorded 100 team digs, the third-most by a Cougar team since the beginning of rally-scoring in 2001.
After an early 3-1 UNLV lead in game one, the Cougars took the lead at 6-5 and managed to stay one step ahead to a 10-8 advantage. However, on a platy that resulted in a kill from Goodman, Lott went down with a twisted ankle and came out of the match. The Rebels scored back-to-back points as BYU adjusted to the new line-up, but the Cougars quickly rallied to push the lead to 13-10. Trailing 17-14 and with Lott still on the sidelines, UNLV made its move, scoring five straight to regain the lead at 19-17.
Lott re-entered the match for BYU, but the momentum stayed in the Rebels' favor to game point at 29-27. But Porter and Hansen responded with back-to-back kills to tie the game at 29-29. After a long rally, Dyer put up a block to give BYU a game-point opportunity, but the Rebels evened it up with a cross-court kill. The game see-sawed from there with chances for both sides to close it out until BYU finally did with a kill from Dyer and a Rebel hitting error to take game one 35-33.
The Rebels came out strong in game two, scoring the first four points before Hansen got BYU on the scoreboard with a kill down the middle. The UNLV lead grew to 10 points at 18-8 as the Cougars struggled to turn balls in transition and had no answer for the Rebel attack. Trailing 25-13, BYU began to find a groove, scoring nine of the final 14 points, but the early hole proved too much for the Cougars to overcome as they fell 30-22.
Game three was a battle early on until UNLV scored three straight to take a 12-9 lead. The advantage grew to 16-12 before BYU went on a 4-0 spurt including two kills from Goodman to tie the game. Moments later, Dyer gave the Cougars their first lead of the game with back-to-back kills to put BYU up 20-18 and prompt a UNLV timeout. The Rebels scored seven of the next nine to go up 25-23, but the Cougars refused to do down without a fight as BYU put together a 6-1 run of its own to get to game point at 29-26. UNLV fought off all three game-enders to tie the score at 29-29 before Porter finally put down the game-winner to give BYU a 31-29 win.
The Cougars jumped out to a 5-1 lead in game four, but the Rebels quickly responded to tie the game at 5-5 and renew the battle. Hansen set her career high in kills on the next ball with a winner down the middle, the first of three straight Cougar scores to put them up 8-5. The lead stretched to 14-10 until a 3-0 Rebel run gave them a chance to tie at 14-13. Lott put down a winner for BYU to stave off UNLV on the next ball, but the Rebels managed to take the lead at 19-18 after a 5-1 run and set up a fight to the finish. The Cougars scored the next two but suddenly found themselves trailing 25-20 after a 6-0 Rebel run. Facing elimination on its home floor, UNLV finished strong to post a 30-24 win and force a fifth game.
For the second time in as many days, the Cougars faced a game-five race to 15 points to decide their fate. With momentum being a key factor in game-five situations, the Rebels went up early at 3-1 and 5-3. However, back-to-back kills from Goodman put the Cougars in front 6-5. But after scoring five of the next six, the Rebels held a 10-7 lead as the match inched to a close. Trailing 14-11, the Cougars fought off two match points with back-to-back blocks and a Porter kill but fell 16-14 on a net call.