By Sam Araki
New life has been breathed into the No. 20 BYU women”s volleyball team.
After some anxious waiting, the Cougars found out Monday, Nov. 26, they have been selected to compete in the 2001 NCAA women”s volleyball championship.
The Cougars” postseason starts against Utah State on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m. on Crimson Court, at the University of Utah.
“We”re obviously excited to be playing in the NCAAs,” said Elaine Michaelis, BYU women”s volleyball coach. “It doesn”t matter who we play or where we play, it”s the NCAA tournament.”
BYU will be making its 20th overall and 11th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament”s 64-team field are contested at 16 different campuses around the country.
For the first time since 1984, BYU will open the NCAA Tournament on the road, as it will travel to Salt Lake City to begin its play.
The Utes, on the strength of a No. 13 ranking and a Mountain West Conference championship, received its first-ever bid to host the NCAA tournament first and second rounds.
“I”m really excited for our program,” said Beth Launiere, Utah women”s volleyball coach in a news release. “Hosting the NCAAs will give us a better chance of making it to the Sweet 16. I”m so excited because we”ve never hosted before in the history of Utah volleyball and it”s going to be great.”
With first round matches on Thursday, and second round matches on Friday, Nov. 30, BYU doesn”t have much time to prepare. As they prepare though, the Cougars have redemption on their minds.
BYU lost to an upstart Utah State team in Provo on Oct. 16, and the Cougars have lost to the Utes two out of three matches this season, including in the MWC Tournament semi-finals.
On Thursday, Utah will play Texas Tech, to determine Friday”s second round match-up. If the rankings hold true, BYU will play Utah for the fourth time this season on Friday at 7 p.m.
The Cougars played well, albeit in a loss, to No. 1 Long Beach State on Saturday, and Michaelis feels the team is continuing to improve.
“We played really well over the weekend, and the players feel real good about the odds,” Michaelis said.
BYU has been a perennial power in the tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 in five consecutive years. After a regular-season loss at Utah State in 2000, BYU defeated them in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
BYU has played big sister to Utah in women”s volleyball, as the Cougars are 61-8 versus the Utes all-time.
Odds are BYU will continue its success.
Although the Cougars will be playing in the NCAA Tournament, Michaelis admits to feeling mixed about the situation.
“It doesn”t feel like an NCAA Tournament,” Michaelis said.
BYU has played Utah three times this year, Utah State once. The close proximity of Utah, a conference rival, is strange. Once the Cougars step on the court, then the feelings of being in the NCAAs should come alive, Michaelis said.
Michaelis said she encouraged all BYU volleyball fans to come out and cheer the team on. Holding the capacity of most high-school gyms (1,500), Crimson Court will sell out quickly.
Tickets for the NCAA first and second rounds at the University of Utah will be available on-line through www.utahcrimsonclub.com, or by calling (801) 581-UTIX.