LEXINGTON, Ky. — The No. 13-seeded BYU women's volleyball team holds a lot in common with its next opponent, No. 4-seeded Kentucky, both on paper and on film, according to coaches of both programs.
The Cougars enter Friday's match with a 30-2 record and 17-1 mark in West Coast Conference play, very similar to the Wildcats' 28-3 overall record and 17-1 mark in SEC play. The two teams square off Friday in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament in what looks to be a competitive matchup.
“I think we’re pretty similar. Even statistically, it is very hard to find tons of differences,” said BYU coach Heather Olmstead. “I think we have big, physical athletes, great setters and good passing. It will be interesting to match up and see on the court when we play where those differences are. Statistically, we’re trying to find differences and look for advantages and things like that, but it has been difficult.”
Kentucky coach Craig Skinner had similar praise for his opponent.
"They’re good. I don’t know what their record is. It’s a lot of wins, not very many losses. They know how to win. They’ve been here before. They have experienced outside hitters that do a great job,” Skinner said. “They’re physical in the middle. Their setter does a great job, and they’re well-coached. There’s not much to say that there’s anything wrong with Brigham Young (University). I think it’s a good matchup for us.”
Indeed, the Cougars have been to the round of 16 before — six straight times, to be exact. Doing as much brings confidence and familiarity to an otherwise young team that features just one senior starter in middle blocker Cosy Burnett, who has been to five straight Sweet 16s as a fifth-year senior.
“I think that when you are young and it’s your first round, it can be intimidating and it can be easy to be overwhelmed,” Burnett said of playing at this stage of the tournament. “But the biggest thing is just to turn to your teammates and focus on them and focus on where you’re at. I think that’s the biggest thing — just being calm and confident in your skills, knowing how you got there and focusing on the girls beside you. I think that’s the best thing.”
Even though the Cougars will be playing a long way from home, players believe they'll still see a lot of support in the stands.
“BYU fans are the best. They always show up and we don’t know where they come from,” said BYU sophomore libero Mary Lake. “I have no idea if there will be any here tomorrow, but we have enough confidence to know that whether our fans are here watching or at home — we have their spirit with us. We have amazing fans.”
Friday's match begins at 10 a.m. MST and will be televised live on ESPNU.