Cougar volleyball headed to NCAA

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    By McCall Knowlton

    The BYU women?s volleyball team hit the gym after the Thanksgiving holiday to prepare for this week?s NCAA Tournament.

    ?We have a lot of work to do between now and Friday, but we look forward to the challenge,? said BYU head coach Jason Watson.

    The Cougars fell to in-state rival Utah in the championship match of the Mountain West Conference Tournament last week, and the loss forced them to wait for an invitation to play in the national tournament.

    The Cougars have appeared in the NCAA Tournament 22 times in the program?s 25-year history, but have failed to qualify two out of the last three seasons.

    The Cougars received their formal at-large bid invitation to compete in the national tournament as one of 33 at-large teams combining with 31 automatic bid teams to complete the tournament pool.

    Watson, a first-year head coach with the Cougars and MWC Coach of the Year, will be taking BYU to Los Angeles where they will face Pepperdine University on Friday at 6 p.m. [MST] in first round tournament action.

    ?We feel very good about getting back to the NCAA Tournament,? Watson said. ?BYU has a rich history of competing in the NCAA Championship. Our athletes worked extremely hard this season to put us in a position to continue the legacy our program has achieved over the years.?

    Friday?s match will be the 18th meeting for the two teams. The Cougars hold a 12-5 overall record and a 1-0 NCAA Tournament record against Pepperdine.

    The Waves tied for a second place finish in the West Coast Conference this season and have a 17-11 overall record. But the Pepperdine volleyball program is no stranger to Watson, who has faced the team twice as an assistant coach at Arkansas State and Kansas State.

    ?Pepperdine is a team that has competed well this year and is very deserving of its selection,? Watson said.

    The winner of the BYU-Pepperdine match will advance to second round play scheduled to begin Saturday at 8:30 p.m. [MST]. The Cougars or the Waves will face the winner of the USC-UC Santa Barbara match-up that will be played Friday.

    The NCAA Tournament will continue next weekend as teams advance to regional play action held Dec. 9-10. The predetermined regional sites are Palo Alto, Calif.; Omaha, Neb.; State College, Pa.; and College Station, Texas.

    The regional winners will advance to the semifinals and final hosted by University of Texas at San Antonio at the Alamodome Dec. 15-17.

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