PROVO — A lot of athletic teams talk about the importance of having a tough mental approach, although only a few of them have enough of it to gain a decided advantage over most opponents.
As for this year's BYU's women's volleyball team (31-1), all signs point to all 18 members of the team maintaining enough mental fortitude to overcome just about all challenges thrown its way over the course of a remarkably successful season. It's all led to a berth into the NCAA Tournament semifinal round where the No. 4-seeded Cougars will take on No. 1 seed Stanford (32-1) Thursday in Minneapolis.
Few press conferences conducted throughout the season end without BYU players and coaches referencing a concept of "staying in the moment" when faced with any type of downturn that could continue spiraling down for other teams.
"This group of girls, especially the seniors, have just worked really hard, getting better mentally each year and physically," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead. "We work on staying in the present and just chipping away at what we want."
Perhaps no two players on the team embody the team's overall mental toughness more than twin sisters Lyndie Haddock-Eppich and Lacy Haddock.
While most players have their personal troubles kept private, the twins' was made public last season when their 53-year-old father, Quinn Haddock, died suddenly of a blood clot. Knowing their father wouldn't want either of them to wallow in his death, they both took to the court a few days later, dealing as best they could in their drastically altered present state.
“Our dad would not have wanted us to sit out any longer — he probably was mad that we took any days off,” Lacy Haddock said in an article published by the Deseret News last season.
When asked, Olmstead absolutely agrees the Haddock twins provide an extraordinary amount of mental toughness.
"I think Lyndie and Lacy are just two of the best of the best, mentally," Olmstead said. "They've both put a lot of time into being physically ready and a lot of time into their mental game of just staying in the present and staying with the task at hand. the improvements both have made over the course of their careers is just unbelievable."
Both twins stand at 5-foot-10 and hail from Timpview High School, where both emerged as top recruits for the Cougar volleyball program. Both quickly agreed to accept spots on the team, fulfilling a longtime dream both had of playing for the Cougars.
Lyndie didn't see immediate success as a freshman, but has worked her way up to start at the critical setter position while receiving several awards such as being named to the Pacific South All-Region Team.
"For Lyndie to go from where she was her freshman year to now being the starting setter in the Final Four is just a really cool story," Olmstead said.
Lacy has played a critical role in the postseason shortly after starting opposite hitter McKenna Miller went down with a season-ending ACL injury. She's helped fill the void left by Miller's injury admirably, with the Cougars not missing much of any beat, as a result.
"I'm proud of Lacy this season. She's waited her turn, patiently," Olmstead said. "When her number was called, she was ready to go, and I'm just really proud of her for the work she's put in every day. She's worked hard for that moment, and it's paying off."
As for either player's success, both twins are quick to turn the focus to their teammates and coaches.
"It's just the time, work and adversity and how each player pushes through it. We're not alone with that by any stretch. Each player has had their own adversity to work through," Lyndie said. "Each girl has a different drive, but we all have the same goal of what we ultimately want."
"Our coaches have been huge in all of our development — reminding us what we can do to increase our mental toughness," Lacy added. "In a lot of ways, being mentally tough is even more important than being physically capable when it comes down to those tough moments."4 comments on this story
Of course the best way for either twin to end their BYU careers would be achieving that ultimate goal of a national championship.
"It would mean everything," Lacy said. "Everyone growing up dreams of a moment like that. We're not there yet. We first have to get past Stanford, and then we'll see what we can do to get past what we hope will be a next opponent."
BYU takes on Stanford Thursday at 5 p.m. MST, with the match televised live on ESPN. The winner will advance to take on the winner of No. 2 Illinois versus No. 7 Nebraska on Saturday.