The Cougars qualified for their 21st of 23 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships on Sunday night. BYU will face New Mexico State in a first-round match=up hosted by the University of Hawai`i. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- For the 21st time in the 23-year existence of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the BYU women's volleyball team has qualified for the 64-team tournament. BYU was chosen as one of 33 at-large teams for the single-elimination event.
The Cougars (23-8 overall) will play New Mexico State (30-4) Thursday at 5 p.m. (HST), 8 p.m. (MST) in a first-round match-up hosted by the University of Hawai`i. The winner of the BYU and NMSU match will play the winner between No. 2-seeded Hawai`i and Idaho Friday at 7 p.m. (HST), 10 p.m. (MST).
"I'm very excited and I know our team is very excited," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "Nerves play a big part when you're seeking an at-large berth, and I was getting concerned because we weren't announced until the second-last bracket.
"I know we deserve to be in the tournament, though, and we proved that with our play this week."
BYU is the ninth-winningest team in NCAA Tournament history with a 26-20 record, and will be going up against a NMSU team that is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Aggies clinched an automatic spot in the tournament after winning the Sun Belt Conference, and are currently riding a 24-match winning streak. BYU holds a 27-5 all-time record against NMSU, and won the last meeting between the two teams, a five-game marathon, in 1995.
"Obviously New Mexico State has been very successful this year and will be a hungry team," Lamb said. "I know we're coming together as a team, though, and we've been playing better volleyball as the season has progressed."
The last time the Cougars were set to leave for Hawai`i was for an early season tournament on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We try to get our kids over to play Hawai`i on a regular basis, so those from the area can have their family and friends come and watch," Lamb said. "With 9/11, though, there were obviously more important things to worry about at the time, and our trip was cancelled.
"Now I it's kind of fitting for us to be able to go down there. I'm happy for Uila (Crabbe), and I'm happy that she will have the opportunity to play in front of her family and friends."
Crabbe, a senior libero for the Cougars, hails from Mililani, Hawai`i and is a graduate of Kamehameha High School. In BYU's final regular-season match Friday against Eastern Michigan, she set a new single-season digs record at BYU with 409.