PROVO -- Excited to begin the season at home, the BYU women’s volleyball team (1-2) will host the annual Nike Invitational Friday and Saturday, attracting No. 7 Nebraska (2-1), Idaho State (3-0) and Cal Poly (2-1) for a six-match tournament.
“Our focus this week is still on us,” BYU head coach Shay Goulding said. “We need to be great on our side of the net. We are working on competing hard and eliminating errors. I really believe the match will still come down to serving and passing.”
The Cougars are coming off a third-place finish at the State Farm Illini Classic hosted by the University of Illinois, falling to No. 6 Illinois and Middle Tennessee, and coming back to beat South Carolina. Senior middle blocker Christina Measom was named to the All-Tournament Team after leading the squad with 15 kills against South Carolina and 12 against Middle Tennessee.
“We learned a great deal about ourselves last weekend,” said Goulding. “As a result, we will be working hard on different elements of our game this week, but ultimately I was pleased that we showed some real tenacity and fight. The girls pulled out an impressive win against South Carolina. A key factor for us will be finishing matches as strong as we begin them.”
Nebraska leads the series with BYU 6-2, with BYU losing the last meeting on Sept. 11, 2009 in Lincoln, hushing the sold-out crowd in the first set, and dropping the next three to the Huskers. Nebraska finished with a No. 5 final ranking in 2009 and started out the season ranked No. 2.
“We are thrilled to bring No. 7 Nebraska to our home court. They are a fantastic volleyball program with rich tradition,” said Goulding. “We competed very well against them last year on their court so it will be fun to have them in the Smith Fieldhouse.”
BYU leads Idaho State in a 23-1 overall record, with the last Cougar win coming in 2005 (3-0). The Bengals boast a perfect 3-0 record this season with wins over Texas-Pan American, Oral Roberts and Lamar.
In the all-time series between Cal Poly and BYU, the Cougars lead 10-5. The Mustangs came to Provo for last year’s Nike Classic Tournament where BYU slid by 3-2. Cal Poly has recorded wins over Arizona and Marshall this season before falling to Notre Dame last weekend.
“Idaho State and Cal Poly both bring a great deal to the quality of this preseason tournament,” said Goulding. “Both just came off of successful opening weekends. I believe both teams have improved tremendously since last year and will be ready to compete. It is fun bringing in Idaho State and Cal Poly because each of the coaching staffs have some history with BYU; I know they love to come here and we love to have them. It is going to be a great weekend of volleyball.”
Preseason tournaments hosted by BYU have been a tradition since 1977. With the exception of two years (1993 and 1999), the Cougars have hosted at least one tournament each year. It is one of college volleyball’s longest running traditions, and although the name of the marquee tournament has evolved over the years from the BYU Preview to the BYU Invitational to the BYU Mizuno Classic to the current BYU Nike Invitational, the premise has always been the same – to gather top teams from around the country for intense competition.
Although the premise of staging the 1977 BYU Preview was for modest short-term gain, BYU has now hosted 36 tournaments in 30 years, winning 20 titles along the way. An excerpt directly from the 1984 BYU Preview program explains the simple beginnings:
“BYU coach Elaine Michaelis conducted her first volleyball invitational in 1977 to give her team, visiting teams and local fans a chance to preview some of the schools expected to play in the AIAW national championships that BYU was to host later that season. Her idea was that preseason competition among gifted teams would allow coaches and players to identify their flaws, exhibit their strengths and measure themselves against others as they began the march toward nationals. The response was so enthusiastic that her idea turned into a tradition.”
There have been many Cougar highlights, but one of the top moments in BYU tournament history was when BYU upended No. 1 Stanford before defeating No. 2 Long Beach State to take the 2000 tournament title. The Cougars also defeated No. 4 Stanford on the way to winning the 2006 crown and No. 10 Wisconsin while taking the 2007 title.
The Cougars look to have another upset as they host No. 7 Nebraska in the first match of the tournament Friday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.