PROVO — BYU women's volleyball coach Heather Olmstead didn't initially know why she was being congratulated via text message just minutes before the NCAA tournament selection show, but she soon learned it was due to some very good news coming her way. She soon learned the Cougars (27-1) were given the No. 4 seed on Sunday, which means they'll host tournament games until the Final Four stage, so long as they keep winning matches.
"We're just so thrilled. We feel we've done a good job with our non-conference and our conference (matches) and played really well," Olmstead said. "We're excited to have another match at home, and that starts this weekend."
First up for BYU will be Stony Brook (21-8) this coming Friday (November 30) with the winner taking on the winner of Utah (18-13) versus Denver (27-2) the next day in the second round. Stanford (28-1) was granted the No. 1 overall seed with Minnesota (25-3) the No. 2 seed and Illinois (28-3) the No. 3.
The Cougars handed the Cardinal their lone loss of the year on Aug. 31 and were assumed to take the No. 1 overall seed throughout the season until taking a loss to Loyola Marymount in what was the final match of the regular season.
BYU players, coaches and administrators gathered in a team room to watch the selection show, giving out cheers when they were shown on the big screen, but perhaps reserving the biggest cheers when fellow West Coast Conference teams were revealed as tournament participants. Four other WCC teams will take part in the 64-team tournament, which include Loyola Marymount (20-9), Saint Mary's (19-9), San Diego (16-12) and Pepperdine (21-8).
"It was definitely a feeling of just (being) proud," said BYU junior libero Mary Lake. "We play these teams, and it's nice for others to realize that they're good teams and they can compete and battle. So we are always excited for teams in our conference that get in."
This year marks the seventh-straight NCAA tournament appearance for BYU and the 31st overall, seventh-most in Division I volleyball history. The Cougars advanced to the round of 16 over the past six years while making it clear to the championship match in 2014.
"It takes a lot of grit and a lot of fight," said BYU senior Roni Jones-Perry of what the team has learned of playing in the NCAA tournament. "I think whatever team comes out and plays better on that given night is the team that's going to win. It's a pretty cliche answer, but it is what it is."12 comments on this story
Most teams enjoy having home court advantage, but in BYU's case that advantage is extraordinary considering the atmosphere that usually accompanies a match played at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"I love the Smith Fieldhouse and I love our fans," Lake said. "It wouldn't have made a difference if we would have gone or stayed with our mentality, but just that we're going to be able to have our fans here for as long as we can … that's exciting because playing at the Smith Fieldhouse is special."