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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (Dec. 7, 2007) - BYU's magical run through the NCAA Tournament continued Friday night as the Cougars swept Middle Tennessee State in the Regional Semifinals to earn their first Regional Finals appearance since 1998. With the 30-28, 30-22, 34-32 win, BYU will now be one of just eight teams still playing for a National Championship. The Cougars will play in the round of eight Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. MT) against the winner for Friday's second match between Michigan and No. 1 Penn State. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU.
"I'm very proud of our team," said BYU head coach Jason Watson. "Middle Tennessee State is a very good team that put a lot of pressure on us, especially in game three. I'm proud of the resolve we showed."
Senior co-captain Chelsea Goodman led BYU in kills for the 22nd time this season with a match-high 19. Junior middle blocker Rachel Dyer also posted double-digit winners with 15 while tallying a match-high eight blocks and .500 hitting percentage. BYU hit .333 in the contest while holding MTSU, who entered the match sixth in the nation in hitting efficiency, to just .215 hitting.
Both teams came out fighting from the start as Middle Tennessee State pushed to a 13-10 lead. However, BYU began to make its move from there as a kill and an ace from Bryn Porter started a 9-2 Cougar run that put BYU in front 19-15. After trailing 23-18, the Blue Raiders fought back with three straight points to cut the lead to just two points at 23-21. Porter once again came up big for BYU as she recorded three kills to keep MTSU at bay, leading to a 29-26 game-point opportunity. The Blue Raiders fought off the first two chances on back-to-back Cougar errors but couldn't hold off BYU a third time as the Cougars recorded the 30-28 victory.
BYU came out strong in game two to jump out to a 6-1 lead. From there, the Cougars never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in the 30-22 win as MTSU came no closer than three points. Goodman recorded eight kills in the game while Dyer posted four winners and four blocks. BYU hit .375 in the game while holding the Blue Raiders to a .143 attack percentage in the game.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Raideres came out hard and strong in game three, putting together an 8-0 run to take a 13-5 early lead. The Cougars tried valiantly to cut the deficit, getting to with five points at 15-10, only to see the lead soar back to eight at 18-10, prompting a BYU timeout. The Cougars once again cut the MTSU advantage to five points at 19-14 out of the break, but after back-to-back Blue Raider scores, it looked like the match was headed to a fifth game.
However, with Amy Schlauder at the service line, the Cougars made a 5-0 run to get within three at 19-22. Moments later, the lead was down to just two at 23-21 after a Blue Raider hitting error. MTSU fought off the Cougar advance as the game neared completion, but a 3-0 BYU spurt brought the Cougars all the way back for a 27-25 lead, outscoring MTSU 17-7 after the timeout. After kills from Dyer and Ashton Hansen, BYU found itself with match point at 29-27. But, as they had done throughout game three, the Blue Raiders continued to fight, fending off both Cougar chances to earn a game point at 30-29. The teams traded scores as two more MTSU game points went by the wayside to knot the score at 32-32. A Blue Raider hitting error on the next play gave the Cougars the opening they were looking for, and a block from Dyer and Porter sent the BYU players streaming onto the court as the Cougars pulled out the 34-32 win.