Senior co-captain Chelsea Goodman and the Cougars will be making their 24th NCAA Tournament appearance this week. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- For the 24th time in the 27-year existence of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship, the BYU women's volleyball team has qualified for the annual postseason tournament. The Cougars received one of 33 at-large selections Sunday after achieving a 21-7 overall record.
"We're very happy that we're in the Tournament and that we have a chance to continue playing this season," said BYU head coach Jason Watson. "BYU has a rich tradition in the Tournament, which we hope to add to. The team is excited to go play and compete against the best teams in the nation."
The Cougars will play the Ole Miss (25-7, 14-6 SEC) Friday at 4:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. MT) in a first-round matchup hosted by the University of Washington at Bank of America Arena in Seattle. The winner of the BYU-Ole Miss match will play Saturday night at 6 p.m. PT against the winner of the No. 6-seeded Washington and Missouri contest slated for 7 p.m. PT Friday.
Ole Miss went 25-7 in the regular season and 14-6 in SEC play to finish third. The 25 wins is the most by the Rebels since the 1989 season and is the 10th time that an Ole Miss team has hit the 25-win mark as a program. The 14 wins in conference play is the most wins in SEC play in program history. The Rebels are led by senior outside hitter Katie Kramer with 3.66 kills per game followed closely by sophomore outside hitter Caitlin Weiss at 3.42 kpg. Junior setter Rachel Kieckhaefer, a second-team All-SEC pick, averages 11.45 assists per game while posting 3.36 digs per contest, second on the team. Senior libero Tara Langley picks up 5.09 digs per game to lead the Rebels. As a team, Ole Miss outperforms its opponents in kills (15.64-14.23), hitting percentage (.201-.181), assists (14.56-13.45) and aces (1.44-1.16).
"Ole Miss is a good team," said Watson. "We actually had the chance to see them play last year against USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and they were incredibly competitive and very talented. We expect the same from them this year. They come from a very competitive volleyball conference in the SEC."
Friday's match will be just the second meeting between the Cougars and Rebels with BYU owning a 1-0 advantage by virtue of a victory at the 1978 AIAW National Tournament, the precursor to the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars have never played Missouri and are 11-0 all-time against Washington.
BYU played against seven schools this year that qualified for the 64-team field, earning a 4-6 record against those teams, including a five-game victory over No. 7-seeded Wisconsin. BYU also defeated tournament teams Northern Iowa (3-0) and American (3-0) while going 1-2 against UNLV (0-3, 3-1, 2-3), 0-2 against Colorado State (2-3, 0-3), 0-1 against 16th-seeded Cal Poly (1-3) and 0-1 against Stanford (1-3), the Tournament's top overall seed.
BYU is tied for ninth in all-time appearances with its 24th selection this season and is tied for the 11th-most NCAA Tournament victories with a 28-23 record. BYU's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament was last season when the Cougars defeated UC Santa Barbara in the first round before losing to fifth-seeded USC in the second round in Los Angeles.
The Cougars have advanced to the second round in 18 of their prior 23 appearances, with a 13-5 first-round record and five automatic byes. The Cougars have made 14 Sweet Sixteen appearances in their 23 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 Stanford, Nebraska, Penn State and Texas. 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 Colorado State and MWC Tournament champion UNLV. The Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific-10 Conference led all conferences with six teams selected. The Southeastern Conference garnered five teams in the field while the West Coast Conference and Missouri Valley Conference each have four teams in the tournament. Two teams, Penn State and Stanford have earned bids to all 27 championships. Six teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Cleveland State University, University of Delaware, Lipscomb University, South Dakota State University, Tennessee State University and UNLV.
In the 26-year history of the championship, 10 schools have been crowned champion, nine of which are in this year's bracket, including the defending champion Nebraska.
Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2004), University of Hawaii (1982, 1983 and 1987), Long Beach State (1989, 1993 and 1998), UCLA (1984, 1990 and 1991), Nebraska (1995, 2000 and 2006), USC (1981, 2002 and 2003), Penn State (1999), Texas (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.
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA REGIONAL
November 30 and December 1 at Stanford, California
*No. 1 Stanford (27-2) vs. Santa Clara (19-11)
Minnesota (18-12) vs. Sacramento St. (28-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Athens, Ohio
Purdue (18-13) vs. *Ohio (26-5)
Xavier (24-10) vs. No. 16 Cal Poly (21-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Manhattan, Kansas
*No. 9 Kansas St. (22-8) vs. Tulsa (27-8)
Oregon (20-10) vs. Missouri St. (25-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Clemson, South Carolina
Alabama (15-14) vs. *Clemson (28-3)
Alabama A&M (15-9) vs. No. 8 UCLA (20-10)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA REGIONAL
November 30 and December 1 at Los Angeles, California
*No. 5 USC (25-4) vs. Pepperdine (18-10)
Long Beach St. (25-6) vs. UNLV (24-5)
November 30 and December 1 at Queens, New York
Princeton (22-3) vs. Delaware (30-4)
Long Island (23-13) vs. *No. 12 St. John's (N.Y.) (31-3)
November 29 and 30 at Gainesville, Florida
*No. 13 Florida (27-2) vs. Col. of Charleston (26-7)
Florida A&M (18-7) vs. Oklahoma (21-9)
November 30 and December 1 at Austin, Texas
New Mexico St. (26-5) vs. LSU (24-7)
Texas St. (21-11) vs. *No. 4 Texas (24-3)
UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA REGIONAL
November 30 and December 1 at University Park, Pennsylvania
*No. 3 Penn St. (28-2) vs. Siena (24-7)
Albany (N.Y.) (23-9) vs. Cleveland St. (23-8)
November 30 and December 1 at Ann Arbor, Michigan
*Michigan (22-10) vs. Miami (Ohio) (20-10)
Illinois St. (21-11) vs. No. 14 Colorado St. (22-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Louisville, Kentucky
No. 11 Hawaii (26-5) vs. Tennessee St. (20-13)
Middle Tenn. (33-2) vs. *Louisville (22-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Seattle, Washington
BYU (21-7) vs. Mississippi (25-7)
Missouri (17-12) vs. *No. 6 Washington (26-3)
MADISON, WISCONSIN REGIONAL
November 30 and December 1 at Madison, Wisconsin
*No. 7 Wisconsin (25-4) vs. Northern Iowa (22-10)
Iowa St. (17-13) vs. San Diego (21-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Durham, North Carolina
*Duke (24-6) vs. American (26-7)
Liberty (27-8) vs. No. 10 California (22-7)
November 30 and December 1 at Dayton, Ohio
*No. 15 Dayton (32-1) vs. Lipscomb (20-11)
Kentucky (22-9) vs. Michigan St. (19-13)
November 30 and December 1 at Lincoln, Nebraska
Wichita St. (26-5) vs. Western Ky. (27-8)
South Dakota St. (25-10) vs. *No. 2 Nebraska (27-1)
Teams winning both matches will move on to regional play December 7 and 8. The pre-determined regional sites are Stanford, Calif.; Gainesville, Fla.; University Park, Penn.; and Madison, Wis.. The regional winners will advance to the semifinals and final hosted by Sacramento State University and the Sacramento Sports Commission at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif., on December 13 and 15.
For more information about the championship, log on to www.ncaasports.com.