As a freshman, outside hitter Chelsea Goodman played her first match in a BYU uniform at Penn State. Four years later, as a senior, Goodman has returned to that same site as she leads the Cougars into today's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 match.
BYU (23-7) meets Middle Tennessee State (35-2) at 3 p.m., with a berth into the regional finals at stake.
The Cougars are looking to extend their stay in the NCAAs. "I opened up my career at Penn State as a freshman. I'm not going to finish my career (at Penn State)," Goodman said. "It's exciting to be in the Sweet 16. I had always hoped for this in my career. Now we're in the third round and we're going to go all the way."
BYU completed a first-round sweep of Ole Miss and stunned No. 6 seed Washington on the Huskies' home court last weekend to advance to the Sweet 16 the first time that's happened for BYU since 2000.
Coach Jason Watson has always preached to his team the importance of playing its best at this time of the year. In the wake of past NCAA disappointments, it seems to be happening now.
"After three years, we may have gotten it figured out," Watson said. "I think what it took was experience. It took this senior class. It was not intimidated. It was not satisfied with just getting to the tournament. Nobody in our program has been to the round of 16 before. We'll see what we learn this weekend."
"Last week was exciting, just being able to play to our potential and knowing that we're peaking at the right time," Goodman said. "We haven't peaked yet, we still have more ahead of us."
The Cougars have experienced a roller-coaster ride of a season, including an upset of nationally ranked Wisconsin early in the year. Later, there were a few surprising conference losses. Then BYU fell to UNLV in the Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinals late last month.
"I think it's been a crazy season for us," said middle blocker Rachel Dyer. "We've had some highs and some lows. All of it has kind of prepared us and hopefully the experiences we've had made us better players. I think it has prepared us well. It's been for our benefit."
Middle Tennessee State upset No. 11 seed Hawaii last week to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in the program's history.Friday's match will be streamed live over the Internet by BYU Radio. If the Cougars win today, they will face the winner of tonight's Michigan-Penn State match Saturday at 4:30 in the regional finals for a chance to go to the Final Four. That match is scheduled to be televised on ESPNU.
BYU (23-7) vs. Middle Tenn. St. (32-5)
Today, 3 p.m.
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