By Brian Hintze
The BYU women’s volleyball team is poised to make a run at the national championship. That run begins Friday, Dec. 4, in Provo as BYU opens the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Colorado State and the University of Utah are the other two MWC teams that will join the Cougars in the tournament.
The MWC teams have a rich history in the tournament.
Six of the eight women’s volleyball programs have been in postseason action over the years while the remaining two programs have only been in competing since 1996.
The NCAA women’s volleyball tournament is in its 20th year and BYU is one of only four teams to make the tournament 19 times along with Hawaii, Nebraska and UCLA.
The Cougars are the most experienced MWC team in the tournament with the most total number of national appearances and a 1993 Final Four appearance.
They have also reached the Regional Final eight times, including the past four years.
BYU head coach Elaine Michaelis said she thinks the Cougars have a chance to win.
Colorado State will be competing in its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament and Utah will be making its third straight appearance.
In the course of BYU’s difficult conference and non-conference schedule so far this year, it has played 16 matches against teams that have qualified for the tournament.
The Cougars have a 10-6 record in those matches, including victories over the top four teams in the nation.
“In the tournament you have to win. There is no tomorrow in each one of these games,” Michaelis said.
Another factor in their favor is their late season rally where the team has gone 11-0.
That streak has included five wins over ranked opponents.
“I feel like we have really made a lot of progress on the last month. Each week we have gotten better at some area that we needed to work on,” Michaelis said.
Perhaps the Cougars’ secret weapon will be the experience, confidence and wisdom of Michaelis.
Michaelis, who has coached BYU for 39 years, is second all time in Division I wins and has the most wins by a female coach.
She has won the inaugural championship in each of the five leagues that BYU has played in.
She has coached in nearly every NCAA tournament for the last 20 years and has an unprecedented knowledge of the game of volleyball.
The Cougars will open tournament play at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Smith Fieldhouse.