PROVO — The BYU women’s volleyball team hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend at the Smith Fieldhouse. Arizona State will take on Oklahoma at 5 p.m. MST Friday, followed by BYU’s match-up against New Mexico State at 7 p.m. The winners from both matches will square off Saturday at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited to not only make the NCAA tournament, but also to host the first two rounds,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “It’s obviously a big advantage for anyone to play at home, and I know our girls are excited for the opportunity to play on our home floor in front of our fans.”
BYU last hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in 2000 when it beat both Utah State and Hofstra in straight sets. It’s also the first time the Cougars have appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2007.
The Cougars (26-3, 13-3 West Coast Conference) are ranked No. 16 nationally and tied No. 19 San Diego for the West Coast Conference title. They received a 12th seed overall in the NCAA tournament and are excited about the improvement they’ve made this season.
“This is definitely the best team I’ve coached since being here at BYU,” Olmstead said. “We returned a lot of key players, and we’ve had a bunch of young players step up big. It’s been fun watching all the hard work they’ve put in come to fruition.”
Jennifer Hamson, a 6-foot-7 junior, leads the way for the Cougars fresh off of being named the WCC Player of the Year. Hamson is joined by standouts Nicole Warner (WCC Defensive Player of the Year) and Alexa Gray (WCC Freshman of the Year), among others.
New Mexico State (22-10 and 12-6 WAC) struggled for much of the latter part of the year, but upset Idaho in the WAC championship to gain an automatic bid. The Aggies are led by coach Mike Jordan, who is in his 15th year coaching the program.
“He’s a great coach, and New Mexico State is obviously playing very well right now,” Olmstead observed. “It’s a team that worked through a rough spell, but winning the WAC championship — that was impressive, and they’ll give us a tough test in the first round. We’ll have to be at our best to win that match.”
BYU, New Mexico State, Arizona State and Oklahoma are part of the Omaha Region. Saturday's winner will advance to the region semifinals on Dec. 7 in Omaha, Neb.