The BYU women's volleyball team will make its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance this week, facing UCSB on Thursday in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- For the 23rd time in the 26-year existence of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the BYU women's volleyball team has qualified for the annual postseason tournament. The No. 20-ranked Cougars received one of 33 at-large selections Sunday after achieving a 24-5 overall record.
"We feel very good about getting back to the NCAA Tournament," BYU head coach Jason 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."
The Cougars will play UC Santa Barbara (19-11, 8-6 Big West Conference) Thursday at 5 p.m. PST (6 p.m. MST) in a first-round matchup hosted by the University of Southern California at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The winner of the BYU-UCSB match will play Friday night at 7 p.m. PST against the winner of the No. 5-seeded USC and Mississippi contest slated for 7 p.m. PST Thursday. For ticket information, please check byucougars.com as information will be posted as it becomes available.
"UCSB is a team that has competed well this year and is very deserving of its selection," said Watson. "We have a lot of work to do between now and Thursday, but we look forward to the challenge."
Thursday's match will be the 17th meeting between BYU and UCSB and their second NCAA Tournament matchup. BYU holds a 9-6-1 advantage in the overall series, including a regional-round loss to the Gauchos in Provo during the 1981 NCAA Tournament. UCSB, along with Penn State and Stanford, holds the distinction of making the most NCAA Tournament appearances at 26.
BYU played against four schools this year that qualified for the 64-team field, earning a 4-2 record against those teams, including a four-game victory over No. 2-seeded Stanford. BYU also defeated tournament teams Arkansas (3-0) and Colorado State (3-3, 3-2) while going 0-2 against the Utah Utes (1-3, 0-3).
BYU is tied for ninth in all-time appearances with its 23rd selection this season and is the 11th-winningest team in NCAA Tournament history with a 27-22 record. BYU's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament was last season when the Cougars lost to Pepperdine, who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, in the first round also in Los Angeles.
The Cougars have advanced to the second round in 17 of their prior 22 appearances, with a 12-5 first-round record and five automatic byes. The Cougars have made 14 Sweet Sixteen appearances in their 22 bids and advanced to eight Elite Eight Regional Finals. BYU's top finish in the NCAA Tournament came in 1993 when the Cougars advanced to the NCAA Final Four before losing in the national semifinals to Penn State.
Thirty-one conferences were awarded automatic qualification to this year's event, with the remaining 33 slots being filled with at-large selections. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The teams tabbed as the top four seeds were Nebraska, Stanford, Penn State and UCLA. Team pairings were determined by geographical proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not paired during the first and second rounds.
BYU is one of three Mountain West Conference teams to receive an invitation to this year's NCAA Tournament, joined by MWC regular-season champion Utah and MWC Tournament champion Colorado State. The Pacific-10 Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten Conference led all conferences with seven teams selected. The Big 12 Conference landed six teams, and four conferences have three teams represented in the bracket -- the West Coast Conference, Big West Conference, MWC and Big East Conference. Five teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Saint Louis University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, St. John's University (New York), University of Mississippi and Belmont University.
In the 26-year history of the championship, ten schools have been crowned champion, nine of which are in this year's bracket, including the defending champion University of Washington.
Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001, 04), University of Hawaii, Manoa (1982, 83, 87), Long Beach State University (1989, 93, 98), UCLA (1984, 90, 91), Nebraska (1995 and 2000), University of Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Penn State (1999), University of Texas at Austin (1988) and Washington (2005).
First- and second-round matches will be played at 16 campus sites. A list of the first-round match-ups follows.
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA REGIONAL
December 1-2 at Omaha, Nebraska
Nebraska (27-1) vs. American (25-6)
Winthrop (34-2) vs. UNI (27-7)
December 1-2 at Knoxville, Tennessee
Tennessee (19-11) vs. Duke (28-3)
Jacksonville St. (24-4) vs. San Diego (24-5)
November 30- December 1 at Gainesville, Florida
Florida (28-2) vs. Florida A&M (21-6)
Col. of Charleston (27-7) vs. Arizona St. (15-14)
November 30- December 1 at Albany, New York
St. John's (N.Y.) (30-4) vs. Albany (N.Y.) (19-12)
Siena (22-12) vs. Minnesota (23-7)
HONOLULU, HAWAII REGIONAL
November 30- December 1 at Los Angeles, California
Southern California (25-4) vs. Mississippi (19-12)
UC Santa Barbara (19-11) vs. Brigham Young (24-5)
December 1-2 at Long Beach, California
Pepperdine (16-11) vs. Long Beach St. (25-5)
Oregon (17-11) vs. Hawaii (26-5)
December 1-2 at Fayetteville, Arkansas
Oklahoma (26-5) vs. Oral Roberts (26-8)
Missouri St. (26-8) vs. Arkansas (16-12)
December 1-2 at Los Angeles, California
Utah (27-3) vs. Michigan St. (19-11)
UAB (27-9) vs. UCLA (29-3)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON REGIONAL
December 1-2 at State College, Pennsylvania
Penn St. (29-2) vs. Long Island (25-10)
Cornell (18-8) vs. Hofstra (23-6)
November 30- December 1 at West Lafayette, Indiana
Kentucky (18-11) vs. Ohio (28-4)
St. Louis (22-8) vs. Purdue (21-10)
December 1-2 at Louisville, Kentucky
Ohio St. (23-7) vs. Belmont (24-6)
Middle Tenn. (26-7) vs. Louisville (25-6)
November 30- December 1 at Boulder, Colorado
Colorado (16-11) vs. New Mexico St. (33-3)
Colorado State (20-9) vs. Washington (25-4)
AUSTIN, TEXAS REGIONAL
December 1-2 at Austin, Texas
Texas (21-6) vs. Prairie View (23-10)
Stephen F. Austin (30-3) vs. Alabama (17-12)
December 1-2 at Madison, Wisconsin
Iowa St. (20-10) vs. Wis.-Milwaukee (24-5)
Notre Dame (18-13) vs. Wisconsin (24-6)
December 1-2 at San Luis Obispo, California
Cal Poly (22-5) vs. Michigan (21-12)
California (20-9) vs. LSU (26-5)
December 1-2 at Stanford, California
Missouri (17-12) vs. Santa Clara (20-7)
Sacramento St. (30-5) vs. Stanford (25-3)
Teams winning both matches will move on to regional play December 8 and 9. The pre-determined regional sites are Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Florida; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Seattle, Washington. The regional winners will advance to the semifinals and final hosted by Nebraska at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska, on December 14 and 16.
For more information about the championship, log on to www.ncaasports.com.