I'm just so proud of them and what they've accomplished. It's exciting that they've been able to put the work in and get to this point. —Shawn Olmstead, BYU coach
Consider the BYU women’s volleyball team both lucky and good.
While the city of Provo endures a miserable cold spell, the Cougars (22-6, 15-3 West Coast Conference) are off to Hawaii to participate in the first round of the NCAA tournament. BYU faces Arizona State this Friday at 8 p.m. MST, with the winner moving on to play either No. 11-seeded Hawaii or Idaho State.
Needless to say, the Cougars were excited when they learned their draw last Sunday.
“I don’t know if the initial celebration of getting the bid was because of Hawaii or that we got the bid,” quipped coach Shawn Olmstead.
“We’re definitely excited to go to Hawaii, and sort of lucky to get to go. But we’re completely focused on that first game against Arizona State,” added senior middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant.
BYU's at-large bid was expected considering the Cougars' impressive regular-season resume. The Cougars held first place in the West Coast Conference for almost the entire season before coming up short against San Diego in the finals of the postseason conference tournament — costing them an automatic bid.
“We were confident we’d get a bid with our RPI rating and our win total,” Olmstead said.
This is the second trip to the NCAA tournament in as many years for the Cougars. Last season saw them reach the Sweet 16 before losing a tough four-set match to No. 5-seeded Oregon (23-25, 21-25, 25-22, 12-25.)
Last year’s tournament experience certainly works as a benefit for the returning players.
“I think there’s been sort of a calming influence,” Olmstead said. “Now you’re at the next stage and we talk about that all the time, so I like that (the returning players) are taking (the inexperienced) girls under their wings and letting them know what’s going to happen.”
Olmstead is pleased with what his group has done this season.
"I'm just so proud of them and what they've accomplished," he said. "It's exciting that they've been able to put the work in and get to this point."
BYU is led by LeCheminant and Alexa Gray, both of whom were first-team All-WCC performers. Other standouts include WCC Freshman of the Year Whitney Young along with Tambre Haddock and Ciara Parker, who were honorable mention All-WCC performers.
"We lost some really good players from last year's team, but a lot of the younger players have stepped up," LeCheminant said. "I really feel that this is a completely different team than last year, but hopefully we can get some of the same results and play as well as we did last year in the tournament."