No. 12 seeded women’s volleyball prepares for NCAA tournament

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The No. 12 seeded BYU women’s volleyball team will host New Mexico State, Arizona State and Oklahoma in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend.

Head Coach Shawn Olmstead said the Cougars have not hosted the NCAA tournament since 2000 and are excited for the opportunity to host it this weekend.

Senior setter Heather Hannemann serves the ball against San Diego.

“I like it because it’s something BYU hasn’t done since 2000,” Olmstead said. “That was 12 years ago, so the girls deserve it. Their body of work shows that, and we’re right where we want to be. It’s nice to be at home.”

The first round of the tournament takes place Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse where Arizona State will face off against Oklahoma. Following that match, BYU will take on New Mexico State.

Junior middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant said after viewing the results of the tournament bid, the Cougars are geared up and ready to go for the upcoming match.

“We’re all excited,” LeCheminant said. “We feel good in practice, and we feel good going into the match. Seeing our name come up on the screen was like a dream come true. It’s what we’ve been working so hard all season to do, and for it to finally be a reality is an amazing feeling.”

The Cougars stand 23-3 on the season and closed the West Coast Conference last week with an impressive record of 13-3. The Cougars also finished the conference as champions sharing in the WCC title with San Diego.

New Mexico State stands 22-20 for its season and ended the Western Athletic Conference 12-6. New Mexico won the WAC Championship last week against Idaho and claimed the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

The last time the Cougars played the Aggies was during the NCAA tournament in 2003. BYU took down New Mexico in a 3-0 sweep, allowing the Cougars to advance to the second round of the tournament.

Olmstead said New Mexico State is a good team and the Cougars are focusing intensely on the upcoming match.

“New Mexico is playing really well right now,” Olmstead said. “They’ve gone on a nice streak to finish off the WAC championship, so they’ve got a lot of momentum right now. We’re starting with New Mexico, and all of our attention focuses on that. Nothing else matters right now. It’s just about us and getting better. Our goals are to take each match one at a time and don’t get carried away looking beyond what could be.”

Five other teams from the WWC also earned spots in the NCAA tournament. Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Saint Mary’s, San Diego and Santa Clara all earned at-large bids. BYU’s non-conference opponents during the season, Wichita State, Colorado State and Tennessee, also earned spots in the tournament.

Senior setter Heather Hannemann said watching the bid was an exciting experience, especially when other teams from the WCC got in as well.

“When we saw our name on the board we were all freaking out,” Hannemann said. “It seemed surreal because it was what we were working for this whole season. It’s awesome to see six teams out of our conference get in too, but we’re ready and excited to play this Friday. We want to go as far as we can, take it one day at a time, and of course we want to win.”

BYU also received four WCC postseason awards this past week. Olmstead earned the title Coach of the Year, with junior Jennifer Hamson receiving Player of the Year. Freshman Alexa Gray was named Freshman of the Year, and Nicole Warner was given Defensive Player of the Year.

The first round of the NCAA tournament begins Friday at 5 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse with Arizona State and Oklahoma. Then BYU takes on New Mexico State at 7 p.m. Live statistics for the match can be viewed on the Cougars’ website.

The winners of the first-round matches of the tournament will face off Saturday in the Smith Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

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