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SAN BRUNO, Calif. \u2013 Three Cougars were named preseason all-conference and BYU women\u2019s volleyball was picked to finish second by the West Coast Conference\u2019s head coaches on Wednesday.

BYU earned 72 points and one first place vote while being tabbed to finish second behind last season\u2019s WCC champions, San Diego. The Toreros finished atop the poll with 78 points while Pepperdine rounded out the top three with 69 points.

The Cougars\u2019 sophomore setter Whitney Bower, senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon and senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg were each voted preseason All-WCC. Bower and Eschenberg both earned All-WCC First Team honors last season.

Bower was one of two setters voted to the team, Eschenberg was one of two middle blockers selected and Ballard-Nixon was one of eight outside hitters named. BYU tied Pepperdine for the second-most players on the team, behind San Diego\u2019s four players.

BYU begins its 2020-21 regular season on the road against Portland on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 12 p.m. PST. The Cougars will take on the Pilots on consecutive afternoons, with the second match scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 12 p.m. PST.

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WEST VALLEY CITY \u2014 The No. 17 BYU gymnastics team racked up a 195.700 to earn second place at the second annual Rio Tinto Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics Meet on Saturday at the Maverik Center.

Keeping its title, the University of Utah posted a 196.900 for the win. Utah State placed third at 194.350 and Southern Utah followed at 194.325.

This meet marks the second of a multi-year partnership between Rio Tinto and the Maverik Center. The two are contracted to host this meet for a minimum of five seasons. Luckily, the partners and universities made it happen with the COVID-19 circumstances.

\u201cIt\u2019s been such a whirlwind preseason all around the country,\u201d head coach Guard Young said. \u201cGymnastics is a precision sport that takes lots of repetitions and it keeps getting interrupted with COVID-19. Just the fact that four schools in the state of Utah can come out during opening week and put a meet together, it\u2019s a miracle.\u201d

BYU kicked off the meet by starting on the balance beam in the first rotation. Senior Abbey Miner-Alder led the team with a 9.800, followed with a 9.725 by fellow captain senior Abby Boden-Stainton. A highlight included a new face in the lineup, freshman Allix Mason. In her career debut performance, she earned a 9.425.

\u201cBeam is a hard one to start on,\u201d Young said. \u201cIt was good for a first meet, in terms of going out there and staying on the beam. No. 1 rule for beam is stay on it. They did that. You could tell that out of the six routines, not a single one of them was relaxed. They all fought and they all stayed on. It didn\u2019t sink us.\u201d

Additionally, senior Angel Zhong returned to the apparatus for the first time since 2019, now fully recovered from an Achilles tear. With a total score of 48.450, the Cougars ended the rotation in fourth, trailing Utah State by 0.025.

In the second rotation, BYU found its groove on the floor with all athletes scoring 9.800 or higher. Alder continued to lead the team with a meet-high floor score of 9.900, followed up by Stainton tying her career-high score of 9.875. Senior Jordan Danbury-Matthews notched a 9.800, her first official floor score of her BYU career. A 49.275 score on floor boosted the Cougars into second place, trailing Utah by 0.650.

\u201cTo come over to the floor right after beam and bring that energy up, it was fantastic,\u201d Young said. \u201cI believe Brogan Evanson is one of the best floor choreographers in the country. We\u2019re really lucky to have her talent in that field.\u201d

BYU took to the vault in rotation three, earning a 48.900. Alder continued to shine with a rotation high of 9.850. Zhong and Mason made their second appearance, both pulling a 9.775. The Cougars maintain their second place standing, widening the gap over Utah State 146.625-146.375.

\u201cMy kudos go to Angel Zhong this year,\u201d Young said. \u201cA year ago she tore her Achilles. And, to come back and be solid on three events is pretty remarkable to see from a young lady.\u201d

The pressure remained throughout the fourth rotation as BYU tackled the uneven bars. Sophomore Anyssa Alvarado, senior Haley Pitou and Stainton all earned a score of 9.825. BYU finished with a solid 49.075, earning a final score of 195.700.

Utah\u2019s Cristal Isa came out on top in the All-Around competition, leading with an impressive 39.400. Another Ute, Maile O\u2019 Keefe, followed in second with a close 39.375. BYU\u2019s Alder placed third in the all-around, earning a 39.275, in addition to MVP for the Cougars.

\u201cAbbey won this event last year,\u201d Young said. \u201cI think she did a good job of going out there and representing BYU.\u201d

Assuming both teams stay healthy, BYU hits the road again for a meet against Arizona State University on Saturday0 in Tempe, Arizona.

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The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation hasn\u2019t officially released its men\u2019s volleyball schedule for 2021, but the league is obviously expecting a season because on Friday they sent out preseason poll results.

It\u2019s no surprise that BYU \u2014 No. 1 in both the AVCA and media polls \u2014 is the top team in the AVCA as voted on by the league\u2019s coaches.

It\u2019s the fifth time in the past six years that the Cougars have grabbed the top spot. This year, BYU collected the maximum totals of 36 points and six of the seven first-place votes.

The Cougars entire starting lineup, including AVCA Player of the Year Gabi Garcia Fernandez and All-Americans Davide Gardini, Wil Stanley and Zach Eschenberg, all returned this season after the 2021 campaign was cut short by COVID-19. At the time the season was canceled BYU was 17-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

As for this year\u2019s schedule, the Cougars have yet to release one. On the athletic website you can find several games listed under \u201cEvents\u201d including UCLA on Feb. 4 and 6, Pepperdine on Feb. 12 and 13 and Grand Canyon on Feb. 18 and 20.

The news release from the MPSF indicates that the season begins Jan. 29 and that each team is scheduled to play 18-regular season MPSF matches and no non-conference dates. Details about the postseason MPSF Tournament will be released at a later date.

As for the rest of the poll, Pepperdine picked up the remaining first-place vote along with 27 points, good for second-place. UCLA placed third in the poll with 25 points and Grand Canyon was picked for a middle-of-the-pack finish with 24 points. Concordia placed fifth in the poll with 17 points, Stanford as sixth (10) and USC (8) as seventh.

LATE THURSDAYBYU women rough up LMU for league victoryLOS ANGELES \u2014 Four different Cougars scored in double figures as BYU women\u2019s basketball defeated Loyola Marymount 71-57 Thursday night at Gersten Pavilion.

\u201cI thought we played really well,\u201d BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. \u201cOur bench was key tonight. Tegan (Graham) and Kaylee (Smiler) hit some really big shots for us. Our defensive effort was also huge. Paisley (Harding) and Maria (Albiero) shut down LMU\u2019s two leading scorers. It was a good win.\u201d

Shaylee Gonzales led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting to go along with five assists, three rebounds and two steals. Lauren Gustin recorded her sixth double-double of the season, pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds while adding 11 points and two assists.

Graham poured in a season-high 14 points after connecting on four of her five three-point attempts and added five assists and three rebounds. Harding was the fourth Cougar to score in double figures on the night, posting 10 points and three rebounds.

Smiler contributed nine points, knocking down three timely 3-pointers, while Sara Hamson tallied two points, two blocks, two rebounds and two steals.

As a team, the Cougars (7-2, 3-1) shot 48% from the field, including 43% from distance, while holding LMU (3-8, 2-4) to 34% shooting. BYU led by as many as 31 points at the end of the third period before fending off a furious Lion comeback attempt in the fourth.

The Cougars return to the Marriott Center next week to host a pair of WCC opponents in Saint Mary\u2019s and Pacific. BYU will first host the Gaels at 6 p.m. Thursday. The matchup will be broadcast on BYUtv and on the BYUtv app.

"}, {"id":"d3c2fa78-43c4-543b-b330-f2abec96e724","type":"article","starttime":"1610035200","starttime_iso8601":"2021-01-07T09:00:00-07:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"other":"sports/college/byu/other"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"BYU gymnastics reaching for higher goals in 2021","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/article_d3c2fa78-43c4-543b-b330-f2abec96e724.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/byu-gymnastics-reaching-for-higher-goals-in-2021/article_d3c2fa78-43c4-543b-b330-f2abec96e724.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/byu-gymnastics-reaching-for-higher-goals-in-2021/article_d3c2fa78-43c4-543b-b330-f2abec96e724.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"The Daily Herald","prologue":"In 2020, the BYU gymnastics team earned its highest national ranking in 15 years, claiming the No. 16 spot in the nation, and won the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference for the first time in program history. These high expectations motivate the team as the 2021 season approaches. With plans to live up to an impressive 2021 preseason ranking of No. 17, head coach Guard Young called seniors Abby Stainton and Abbey Miner Alder to lead the team as captains. However, he expects all seven of his seniors to set the example, just as they have in the past.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["meet","team","abby stainton","sport","guard young","abbey miner alder","state and university of denver","spot"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Gymnastics"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4","description":"BYU gymnasts celebrate a great floor routine during the Rio Tinto Best of Utah meet at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2019.","byline":"BYU Photo","hireswidth":3648,"hiresheight":2432,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/4b/e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4/5e1b5db48744e.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/4b/e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4/5ff64656f23da.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/4b/e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4/5ff64656f23da.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/4b/e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4/5ff64656f23da.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/4b/e4b3f4b1-3283-56e1-a765-fedc5016dbe4/5ff64656f23da.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"revision":2,"commentID":"d3c2fa78-43c4-543b-b330-f2abec96e724","body":"

In 2020, the BYU gymnastics team earned its highest national ranking in 15 years, claiming the No. 16 spot in the nation, and won the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference for the first time in program history. These high expectations motivate the team as the 2021 season approaches.

With plans to live up to an impressive 2021 preseason ranking of No. 17, head coach Guard Young called seniors Abby Stainton and Abbey Miner Alder to lead the team as captains. However, he expects all seven of his seniors to set the example, just as they have in the past.

\u201cWe have Angel Zhong who is coming back for a fifth season after tearing her achilles,\u201d Young said. \u201cAbbey Miner will continue in the all-around. Avery Bennett has been a vault staple for the last three years. Abby Stainton has been solid on three events all year. Jordan Matthews was a solid backup on floor last year and she has elevated herself to a starting position. Haley Pitou has been a great starter for us on both bars and vault. And, Helody Cyrenne is someone I know I can count on for beam.\u201d

During the 2021 season, the Cougars are scheduled to participate in 10 meets leading up to the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships in Logan, Utah, on Friday, March 22.

The schedule starts with the second annual Rio Tinto Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics Meet against University of Utah, Southern Utah University and Utah State University on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. MST at the Maverik Center.

BYU will go on to host four meets in the Smith Fieldhouse. Three of these home meets will take place in February when the Cougars host all three MRGC rivals Southern Utah (Feb. 5), Boise State (Feb. 19) and Utah State (Feb. 26). In March, BYU will welcome both Illinois State and University of Denver for a tri-meet on March 11.

A few out-of-state meets include visiting No. 2 University of Oklahoma (Mar. 11) and No. 21 Arizona State University (Jan. 16).

This schedule is finalized, but could see changes due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

"}, {"id":"d36d172e-eae5-594d-9ef5-71d2ffbc95ba","type":"article","starttime":"1609879140","starttime_iso8601":"2021-01-05T13:39:00-07:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"volleyball":"sports/college/byu/volleyball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"BYU women's volleyball No. 16 in first AVCA poll of 2021","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/article_d36d172e-eae5-594d-9ef5-71d2ffbc95ba.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-womens-volleyball-no-16-in-first-avca-poll-of-2021/article_d36d172e-eae5-594d-9ef5-71d2ffbc95ba.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-womens-volleyball-no-16-in-first-avca-poll-of-2021/article_d36d172e-eae5-594d-9ef5-71d2ffbc95ba.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":1,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Darnell Dickson\nDaily Herald","prologue":"Do you remember the BYU women\u2019s volleyball team? It\u2019s been more than a year since the Cougars actually took the court for a match. Since that time, BYU and many NCAA programs decided to push the regular season to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, the American Volleyball Coaches Association released the first spring poll and the Cougars check in at No. 16 with 602 points.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Volleyball"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417","description":"BYU's Kennedy Eschenberg (left) takes a swing against Loyola Marymount defenders in a match at the Smith Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2019.","byline":"BYU Courtesy Photo","hireswidth":3648,"hiresheight":2432,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/a3/7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417/5d9574a2836a3.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/a3/7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417/5ff4ea0e743f0.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/a3/7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417/5ff4ea0e743f0.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/a3/7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417/5ff4ea0e743f0.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/a3/7a3a1b79-61dd-517c-99ba-8ba55d95b417/5ff4ea0e743f0.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"links":[{"id":"6d9a6aea-7325-5fb2-8c95-0654a4a01470","type":"link","starttime":"1609879320","starttime_iso8601":"2021-01-05T13:42:00-07:00","application":"editorial","title":"2021 Spring Preseason AVCA Women's Volleyball Poll","permalink":"https://www.avca.org/polls/di-women/1-5-2021.html","canonical":"https://www.avca.org/polls/di-women/1-5-2021.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{},"presentation":null,"revision":1,"url":"https://www.avca.org/polls/di-women/1-5-2021.html"}],"revision":6,"commentID":"d36d172e-eae5-594d-9ef5-71d2ffbc95ba","body":"

Do you remember the BYU women\u2019s volleyball team?

It\u2019s been more than a year since the Cougars actually took the court for a match. Since that time, BYU and many NCAA programs decided to push the regular season to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, the American Volleyball Coaches Association released the first spring poll and the Cougars check in at No. 16 with 602 points.

Wisconsin, which finished the 2019 season ranked No. 2 as the NCAA runner-up to Stanford, is the No. 1 team in the poll with 40 of the 62 first-place votes. Lone Peak\u2019s Lauren Jardine \u2013 the Daily Herald Valley Player of the Year \u2014 joins the Badgers this winter as a true freshman. Wisconsin is followed by Texas, Stanford, Kentucky and Nebraska in the top five.

Utah, which surprised BYU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2019, is ranked No. 10. San Diego, which won the regular-season title in the WCC, is ranked No. 23.

The Cougars (26-5) finished 2019 ranked No. 17 and are in a bit of rebuilding phase. They must replace the school\u2019s all-time leader in digs (libero Mary Lake) and All-American outside hitter McKenna Miller. BYU does return sophomore setter Whitney Bower and senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg.

The Cougars are scheduled to begin WCC play on January 26 and 27 with a pair of matches at Portland.

"}, {"id":"f66e2c33-ebe1-5d55-b493-3f13c0a77ebf","type":"article","starttime":"1609792920","starttime_iso8601":"2021-01-04T13:42:00-07:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"volleyball":"sports/college/byu/volleyball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","featured":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Cougar men's volleyball No. 1 in first NVA/AVCA poll","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/article_f66e2c33-ebe1-5d55-b493-3f13c0a77ebf.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/cougar-mens-volleyball-no-1-in-first-nva-avca-poll/article_f66e2c33-ebe1-5d55-b493-3f13c0a77ebf.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/cougar-mens-volleyball-no-1-in-first-nva-avca-poll/article_f66e2c33-ebe1-5d55-b493-3f13c0a77ebf.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Darnell Dickson\nDaily Herald","prologue":"High expectations are nothing new with the BYU men\u2019s volleyball team. So it\u2019s no surprise that the Cougars are No. 1 in the 2021 preseason National Volleyball Association/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. In fact, BYU, which was 17-1 and the top-ranked team in the country last March when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19, received all 14 first-place votes and 238 overall.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Volleyball"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52","description":"Brigham Young University outside hitter Zach Eschenberg (11) fist-bumps opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez (5) before a game between the BYU Cougars and the UCSB Gauchos held at Smith Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald","byline":"Isaac Hale Daily Herald","hireswidth":3000,"hiresheight":2000,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/2e/52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52/5e350781cf5a6.hires.jpg","presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/2e/52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52/5ff3d93ed9857.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/2e/52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52/5ff3d93ed9857.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/2e/52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52/5ff3d93ed9857.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/2e/52ef9f30-8a51-5a62-9cd0-ac8cc4b8dd52/5ff3d93ed9857.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"f66e2c33-ebe1-5d55-b493-3f13c0a77ebf","body":"

High expectations are nothing new with the BYU men\u2019s volleyball team.

So it\u2019s no surprise that the Cougars are No. 1 in the 2021 preseason National Volleyball Association/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. In fact, BYU, which was 17-1 and the top-ranked team in the country last March when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19, received all 14 first-place votes and 238 overall.

Hawaii, which was the only team to beat the Cougars last spring, is No. 2 with 224 votes. UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Lewis complete the top five teams followed by UC Irvine, Pepperdine, UC San Diego, UCLA, Grand Canyon, Penn State, Concordia-Irvine, George Mason, Ohio State and Stanford.

BYU is in the midst of preseason workouts. The NCAA allowed for an extra year of eligibility for men\u2019s volleyball and the Cougars\u2019 entire starting lineup returned, including AVCA Player of the Year Gabi Garcia Fernandez.

Men\u2019s college volleyball competition is supposed to start sometime in January, though specific dates and matchups have yet to be announced.

"}, {"id":"27b3e0e7-6cc1-5059-830b-71a628894adb","type":"article","starttime":"1608266700","starttime_iso8601":"2020-12-17T21:45:00-07:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"volleyball":"sports/college/byu/volleyball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"BYU men's volleyball scrimmage showcases old and new","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/article_27b3e0e7-6cc1-5059-830b-71a628894adb.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-mens-volleyball-scrimmage-showcases-old-and-new/article_27b3e0e7-6cc1-5059-830b-71a628894adb.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-mens-volleyball-scrimmage-showcases-old-and-new/article_27b3e0e7-6cc1-5059-830b-71a628894adb.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Darnell Dickson\nDaily Herald","prologue":"The BYU men\u2019s volleyball team marked the beginning of the new season with a Blue and White Scrimmage. When that season actually begins is anybody\u2019s guess. The Cougars \u2013 ranked No. 1 in the country last March when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the season \u2013 return every starter and virtually their entire roster for the 2021 season. Thursday night in the Smith Fieldhouse BYU coach Shawn Olmstead divided his squad up as evenly as possible and the Blue team ended up winning all four sets \u2013 28-26, 29-27, 25-20, 25-21.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Volleyball"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8","description":"BYU's Gabi Garcia Fernandez (6) and Filipe de Brito Ferreira (15) rise up for a block during a team scrimmage at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.\u00a0","byline":"BYU Courtesy Photo","hireswidth":3648,"hiresheight":2432,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/d1/ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8/5fdc3b137aa3f.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/d1/ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8/5fdc3b1364fa1.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/d1/ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8/5fdc3b1364fa1.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/d1/ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8/5fdc3b1364fa1.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/d1/ed114713-88dd-5e50-a482-fb6f078c41a8/5fdc3b1364fa1.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}},{"id":"9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119","description":"BYU's Gavin Julian (in white) attacks the ball during a team scrimmage at the Smith\u00a0Fieldhouse in Provo on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.\u00a0","byline":"BYU Courtesy Photo","hireswidth":2432,"hiresheight":3648,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/26/9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119/5fdc3b131645f.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1175","height":"1763","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/26/9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119/5fdc3b1300116.image.jpg?resize=1175%2C1763"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"150","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/26/9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119/5fdc3b1300116.image.jpg?resize=100%2C150"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"450","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/26/9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119/5fdc3b1300116.image.jpg?resize=300%2C450"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1536","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/26/9265f856-51fa-5691-b6a1-fdcc475bf119/5fdc3b1300116.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C1536"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"27b3e0e7-6cc1-5059-830b-71a628894adb","body":"

The BYU men\u2019s volleyball team marked the beginning of the new season with a Blue and White Scrimmage.

When that season actually begins is anybody\u2019s guess.

The Cougars \u2013 ranked No. 1 in the country last March when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the season \u2013 return every starter and virtually their entire roster for the 2021 season. Thursday night in the Smith Fieldhouse BYU coach Shawn Olmstead divided his squad up as evenly as possible and the Blue team ended up winning all four sets \u2013 28-26, 29-27, 25-20, 25-21.

\u201cIt was definitely kind of what we expected,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cIt was even teams and the first two sets went to overtime. The young guys had some jitters because they\u2019ve been going in practice sessions and pretty comfortable. Now the stands are out and there were a handful of people watching. We need to get them in that situation. It would have been ideal if we could have played a little more loose and more energetic, but with finals finishing today and everything circling around them, it was great.\u201d

Men\u2019s college volleyball coaches and administrators are still trying to figure out just how the season will proceed and how to keep their players safe and healthy with the coronavirus is still a threat.

\u201cShawn promised us that we\u2019re going to play and we\u2019re holding on to that,\u201d senior middle blocker Miki Jauhiainen said. \u201cWe don\u2019t know when, but it\u2019s just enough to know what we need to do to be ready to play.\u201d

Preseason action is expected to begin in mid to late January with Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play to follow.

As for the scrimmage, the usual suspects made big impacts. The 2020 AVCA Player of the Year, Gabi Garcia Fernandez, still has a jump serve that flies faster than what should be humanly possible. Middles Jauhiainen and Filipe de Brito Ferreira are still dominant hitters and blockers. Senior setter Wil Stanley still runs the show with grace and timing.

\u201cI liked for the most part our ball control,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cNot just with serve and receive but ball control of down balls and off touches. We made a lot of touches with our defense behind the block. We\u2019ve been working on that a bunch. We\u2019ve historically been a good blocking team but we had some good touches behind that. Our attackers took good, high swings and our setters made good decisions.\u201d

The scrimmage was also a bit of a showcase for some new players as well. Freshmen Anthony Cherfan (6-6 opposite), Zeo Meyer (6-4 setter), Teon Taylor (6-6 outside hitter) and Miks Ramanis (6-5 outside hitter) stood out as youngsters with a bright future in the program.

\u201cI really liked the way Miks did everything,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cHe was very good and consistent from the service line. He had a few hitting errors throughout the course of the four sets but that was expected. He hits really good angles and has good vision on the court.

\u201cIt\u2019s always difficult for a freshman to be setting and running the offense with veteran guys. Zeo did a good job in there. He made some fun and savvy plays just like he does in practice. He\u2019s really good at volleyball and that showed.\u201d

With at least a month until competition begins, Olmstead and his staff will continue to prepare their team for a run at the 2021 title.

\u201cIn practice we\u2019ve had good energy and a good vibe because the players want a chance to play matches against other people,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cIt was good for our guys for them to work out the kinks and work together. We\u2019re excited to see the young guys play and some of the veterans go back to work.\u201d

"}, {"id":"57129163-3778-5080-ab3e-809ac513518c","type":"article","starttime":"1608213600","starttime_iso8601":"2020-12-17T07:00:00-07:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"volleyball":"sports/college/byu/volleyball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"BYU men's volleyball returns for unfinished business in 2021","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/article_57129163-3778-5080-ab3e-809ac513518c.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-mens-volleyball-returns-for-unfinished-business-in-2021/article_57129163-3778-5080-ab3e-809ac513518c.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/volleyball/byu-mens-volleyball-returns-for-unfinished-business-in-2021/article_57129163-3778-5080-ab3e-809ac513518c.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Darnell Dickson\nDaily Herald","prologue":"For much of the spring and summer, the BYU men\u2019s volleyball team became the tallest group of golfers in the country. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the national polls back in March when the rest of the season and the national championships were canceled due to the pandemic. \u201cWe couldn\u2019t get into the gym very much after that, so a lot of the guys picked up different hobbies,\u201d BYU setter Wil Stanley said. \u201cSome guys started hiking, or playing cards or playing golf. We wanted to keep our minds and bodies active and we got to do a lot of these things together a long as we were social distancing.\u201d","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["shawn olmstead","wil stanley","coach","volleyball","sport","golf","athlete","coaching job","guy"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Volleyball"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255","description":"BYU senior setter Wil Stanley (3) celebrates a Cougar point in the Smith Fieldhouse against Penn State on January 10, 2020.","byline":"BYU Courtesy Photo","hireswidth":6000,"hiresheight":4000,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/da/cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255/5e33b97c7617d.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/da/cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255/5fdaa68b1ca8b.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/da/cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255/5fdaa68b1ca8b.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/da/cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255/5fdaa68b1ca8b.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/da/cdadba7b-faec-511a-8849-4a0591593255/5fdaa68b1ca8b.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"57129163-3778-5080-ab3e-809ac513518c","body":"

For much of the spring and summer, the BYU men\u2019s volleyball team became the tallest group of golfers in the country.

The Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the national polls back in March when the rest of the season and the national championships were canceled due to the pandemic.

\u201cWe couldn\u2019t get into the gym very much after that, so a lot of the guys picked up different hobbies,\u201d BYU setter Wil Stanley said. \u201cSome guys started hiking, or playing cards or playing golf. We wanted to keep our minds and bodies active and we got to do a lot of these things together a long as we were social distancing.\u201d

Stanley said he\u2019s been golfing longer than just about anyone on the team and he\u2019s pretty consistent, but added that 6-foot-9 outside hitter Davide Gardini was golfing a lot and 6-7 opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez was also getting pretty good.

\u201cOur assistant coach, Micah Naone, really got into golf as well,\u201d Stanley said. \u201cIt was a way we could have fun, talk some trash to each other and still stay active.\u201d

Good news for BYU fans: The Cougars are still pretty good at volleyball, too.

Spring athletes were given an extra year by the NCAA and the entire BYU roster decided to come back for 2021 for another shot at a national title, even though many of them had lucrative professional opportunities.

\u201cEveryone came back and that definitely speaks to the culture we built last year,\u201d Stanley said. \u201cThe idea was for the guys to come in, work hard and grind. We had such an abrupt stop to the season. That really sparked the guys to come back. We knew how hard we worked to be the best team in the country. The seniors all came back and we\u2019re all committed.\u201d

The Cougars have been luckier than most programs and have been able to conduct voluntary workouts in September and October. Official practices began at the beginning of November.

Head coach Shawn Olmstead and his staff have been dealing with new information and guidelines practically every day since the pandemic started.

\u201cWe lost the season, then we found out we were losing our camps and we were restricted in our recruiting,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cIt felt weird, like the Twilight Zone. Everyone was trying to find answers and nobody really had any. It still kind of feels that way.\u201d

Olmstead said the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation is ready to go in early January but nonconference matches are still being determined. The MPSF will return to the old format where teams will play two games in the same location on a road trip. The Big West Conference is moving to a bubble format to limit travel so fitting nonconference games into the schedule is going to be challenging.

The Cougars will hold a scrimmage at 7 tonight in the Smith Fieldhouse, with attendance limited to family and staff members.

The Fieldhouse creates a unique atmosphere for volleyball and has one of the best home court advantages in the country. BYU is 57-10 (85%) at home since Olmstead took the head coaching job for 2016 season.

Playing volleyball in a nearly empty arena in 2021 will require some adjustment.

\u201cWe need to bring it, our bench and the six guys on the court,\u201d Stanley said. \u201cThere won\u2019t be long points where the fans are screaming and yelling. We win so many points at home because of our fans. One of the greatest things about BYU is how passionate the fans are and how much they enjoy volleyball.\u201d

Even though the Cougars will be one of the favorites to win the 2021 national title, the players and coaches know they will still have to continue to get better.

\u201cThe guys have been doing a really good job with that right from the start,\u201d Olmstead said. \u201cAs a coach you get really concerned about falling into a feeling where we think are going to pick up right where we left off. We\u2019ve had a nice stretch of strong, consistent practices. The guys are mindful that we have to make improvement for every drill and every activity. The overall level of competition from top to bottom is encouraging.\u201d

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There will be volleyball.

At least, there is an official West Coast Conference schedule for the BYU women\u2019s volleyball team, and that\u2019s the start.

While some conferences are playing regular season women\u2019s college volleyball right now \u2013 the Big 12, the SEC the ACC and the Sun Belt to name a few \u2013 the WCC opted to wait until winter. BYU\u2019s first conference match will be Jan. 26 at Portland.

Instead of the typical home-and-home matchups, this year\u2019s schedule features just one home-and-home series with matches played against the other eight teams in the conference on back-to-back nights.

Home matches for BYU include Santa Clara (Feb. 2-3), Gonzaga (Feb. 9-10), Loyola Marymount (Feb. 16-17) and Pacific (March 12-13).

The Cougars will play travel partner and last year\u2019s league champ San Diego in California on March 19 before flying back to Utah to play the Toreros in the Smith Fieldhouse on March 20.

BYU\u2019s non-conference schedule will be announced at a later date.

Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament will be April 4. All programs, including those who have opted to play in the fall, will be eligible to play. There will be 32 automatic qualifiers and 16 at-large teams picked for the 2021 bracket.

Last season, BYU finished 26-5 overall and 16-2 in WCC play. The Cougars hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, sweeping New Mexico State in the first round before getting swept by rival Utah in the second.

BYU\u2019s 15-player roster lists 11 underclassmen, including six freshmen, for one of Heather Olmstead\u2019s youngest squads in her five years as head coach.

"}, {"id":"9c7473a1-32d8-5af7-9b53-bfed0e2baaa0","type":"article","starttime":"1603900800","starttime_iso8601":"2020-10-28T10:00:00-06:00","priority":50,"sections":[{"other":"sports/college/byu/other"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"BYU men's cross country ranked No. 2, women No. 3","url":"http://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/article_9c7473a1-32d8-5af7-9b53-bfed0e2baaa0.html","permalink":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/byu-mens-cross-country-ranked-no-2-women-no-3/article_9c7473a1-32d8-5af7-9b53-bfed0e2baaa0.html","canonical":"https://www.heraldextra.com/sports/college/byu/other/byu-mens-cross-country-ranked-no-2-women-no-3/article_9c7473a1-32d8-5af7-9b53-bfed0e2baaa0.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Darnell Dickson\nDaily Herald","prologue":"The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) ranked BYU\u2019s men\u2019s cross country No. 2 in the nation and the women\u2019s cross country team No. 3 in its first national rankings of the 2020-21 season on Tuesday. Both teams had strong performances to start the season at the OSU Invitational held on Oct. 17, at the OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The women cruised to a first-place finish with six Cougars finishing in the top 10 while the men took third place, just behind No. 1 Northern Arizona and No. 5 Oklahoma State.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"BYU Cross Country"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730","description":"BYU sophomore runner Conner Mantz runs in the 10-kilometer race in the NCAA championships at Terre Haute, Indiana, on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.","byline":"BYU Photo","hireswidth":3648,"hiresheight":2432,"hiresurl":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/5a/a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730/5dd977dcbf42e.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1763","height":"1175","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/5a/a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730/5f99e00adaf2e.image.jpg?resize=1763%2C1175"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"67","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/5a/a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730/5f99e00adaf2e.image.jpg?resize=100%2C67"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"200","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/5a/a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730/5f99e00adaf2e.image.jpg?resize=300%2C200"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"682","url":"https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/heraldextra.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/5a/a5a5440a-0fa0-552d-b6ed-e0d78addb730/5f99e00adaf2e.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C682"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"9c7473a1-32d8-5af7-9b53-bfed0e2baaa0","body":"

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) ranked BYU\u2019s men\u2019s cross country No. 2 in the nation and the women\u2019s cross country team No. 3 in its first national rankings of the 2020-21 season on Tuesday.

Both teams had strong performances to start the season at the OSU Invitational held on Oct. 17, at the OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The women cruised to a first-place finish with six Cougars finishing in the top 10 while the men took third place, just behind No. 1 Northern Arizona and No. 5 Oklahoma State.

Three Cougars found themselves ranked amongst the best in the country when FloTrack released its national ratings for individual cross country athletes last week. Whittni Orton sat atop the women\u2019s individual rankings after her dominant first-place finish on the OSU Cross Country Course. In the men\u2019s individual rankings, FloTrack rated Conner Mantz No. 2 and Casey Clinger No. 4 after the duo finished 2-3, respectively, at the OSU Invitational.

The BYU cross country program is coming off perhaps the best combined season in its history as the men won the 2019 championship and the women took second. For the men, it was the first national championship in school history and for the women \u2014 a program that has won four titles \u2014 it was their best finish since 2003.

While this year\u2019s cross country regular season will be conducted Jan. 30 through March 5 due to COVID postponing most schools\u2019 typical seasons, teams are still allowed to compete in the fall. Meet results from both the fall and spring will count towards qualification for the NCAA Championship meet on March 15 at the OSU Cross Country Course.

With no other meets currently scheduled in the fall, BYU cross country will continue to practice and prepare for the spring cross country season.

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Hey, I understood the red-orange-yellow-green designation. Now what are we using? The Transmission Index? Whatever it\u2019s called, since 6,000 fans are going to be allowed in LaVell Edwards Stadium for the BYU-Texas State game on Saturday, I\u2019m all for it.","supportsComments":false,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["kalani sitake","sport","american football","sack","zach wilson","george udo","clayton tune","zac dawe","byu"],"internalKeywords":[],"customProperties":{"label":"Inside Darnell's Head"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"218fcfb6-63bc-570a-9ba6-e7bcc6901454","description":"BYU quarterback Zach Wilson runs the ball during the game against Houston at TDECU Stadium in Houston on Friday, October 16, 2020.","byline":"BYU 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Here\u2019s what\u2019s going on inside Darnell\u2019s head as the state of Utah switches to a different alert system for COVID-19.

Hey, I understood the red-orange-yellow-green designation. Now what are we using? The Transmission Index? Whatever it\u2019s called, since 6,000 fans are going to be allowed in LaVell Edwards Stadium for the BYU-Texas State game on Saturday, I\u2019m all for it.

Big comeback Friday\u2019s 43-26 BYU football victory at Houston had more ups and downs than a hike on the Timpooneke Trail, more twists and turns than drive on I-15 construction through Lehi and more drama than a presidential debate.

The Cougars had to overcome key injuries on both sides of the ball, poor pass coverage and a very talented and athletic Houston team to pull out a win.

They did it by making very good adjustments defensively, by executing a perfect onside kick in the third quarter and by keeping the ball in the hands of quarterback Zach Wilson when the game was on the line.

It wasn\u2019t a perfect game by any means, but the way BYU won was perfect for the growth of the team.

Learning how to win a tough game is a thousand times more valuable than blowing somebody out by 30 or 40 points.

A young player like sophomore safety George Udo, who was flagged for a pass interference and whiffed on a sack that allowed Houston quarterback Clayton Tune to score and put the red Cougars up 26-14 in the third quarter, was given the opportunity to atone for his mistakes. And he did, picking off a two-point conversion attempt and later chasing down Tune for a big sack.

Those are important moments in the growth of a player.

BYU is 5-0 for the first time since 2008 in large part because Kalani Sitake took over defensive play calling in the second half. The passive two-deep zone was getting shredded by Tune and something needed to be done.

In the postgame, Sitake said maybe BYU ought to play more man-to-man defense in the future (Ding! Ding! Ding!) but also credited defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. Sitake will probably claim that the defensive play calling is a collaborative effort but the defense in the second half reflected Sitake\u2019s aggressive approach way more than Tuiaki\u2019s drop-eight philosophy.

You decide.

Like I said, it was an imperfect effort by the Cougars.

The pass coverage was Swiss cheese in the first half. The third-and-short play calling was ineffective. Sitake should have taken the points at the end of the first half instead of going for it on fourth down.

On that subject, Sitake later said his mindset is to be bold, aggressive and swing for the fences. He knew he was mixing his sports metaphors, but we know what he means. He\u2019s letting his team know he has confidence in them and he believes that will pay off in the future.

Here\u2019s what is in the near future for the Cougars: Beating Texas State and Western Kentucky to get to 7-0, moving up in the national polls and preparing for a showdown with Boise State on the Smurf Turf on Nov. 6.

Enjoy the ride.

Give this guy a nicknameH-Back Masen \u201cThe Hurdler\u201d Wake topped himself by leaping over not one but two Houston defenders in the third quarter. The game just doesn\u2019t really start until Wake hurdles over a defender, does it?

The Hurdler. Sounds like a bad Batman villain, doesn\u2019t it? Maybe we should come up with a better nickname. Submissions are being accepted now.

SneakyThe onside kick in the third quarter was a game changer. BYU had just scored to close the deficit to 26-20. Obviously, Cougar coaches had seen something in film study and the play was executed perfectly.

BYU didn\u2019t score off the play but flipped field position and went on to outscore Houston 29-0 the rest of the way. Kudos to kicker Jake Oldroyd and special teams standout Talmage Gunther, the former Lone Peak quarterback who recovered the ball.

Needs work

The officiating crew for the BYU-Houston game was one of the slowest I have ever seen in a college game. Every single decision was like a 15-minute smoke break.

When Micah Harper was ejected for targeting in the second half \u2014 a questionable judgement call, to be sure, based on the replays we saw \u2014 why wasn\u2019t Houston running back Kyle Porter ejected as well for head-butting Harper after the play?

At one point, Houston declined an illegal block penalty on BYU to force a fourth down. When Dana Holgorsen saw the Cougars trot out Oldroyd to attempt a very long field goal, he told the officials he now wanted to accept the penalty to force a third-and-27.

I didn\u2019t know you could change your mind once you accepted a penalty. That probably shouldn\u2019t be allowed.

Heisman worthy

Wilson accounted for 440 of BYU\u2019s 478 yards of total offense. The more I watch him play, the more he reminds me of John Beck during his senior season in 2006. That\u2019s no coincidence: As ESPN announcers keep reminding us, Wilson trained with Beck and 3DQB during the summer. Wilson even looks a lot like Beck when he throws, from the occasional odd arm angle to the flick of the wrist of his powerful arm to throw the ball on a rope.

Wilson is 107 of 136 (78.7%) for 1,641 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception. His efficiency rating of 207.68 is No. 2 in the country. ESPN ran a graphic Saturday night listing Wilson as a Heisman candidate.

Good D

After Houston drove 98 yards on 17 plays to score and go up 26-14 in the third quarter, the BYU defense was absolutely dominant. On 19 subsequent plays in the fourth quarter, the red Cougars managed a total of eight yards.

My defensive MVP for the Houston game is senior defensive end Zac Dawe, who had eight tackles (three solo), one sack, three tackles for loss and one pass break up. A defensive line without an ill Khyiris Tonga struggled at times but came up big when it mattered.

Parker Dawe (2013-16) was a walk-on who put on 90 pounds and become a starting offensive lineman. Wyatt Dawe is a dominating lineman at Pleasant Grove this season and Zac Dawe has built himself into a potent defensive end after being lightly recruited.

Those Dawe boys can really put their nose to the grindstone and work, can\u2019t they?

Young and amazing

I wrote a story this weekend on BYU women’s volleyball commit Claire Little, who was named the Freshman of the Year by PrepVolleyball.com last season.

She actually committed to the Cougars as a 14-year-old eighth grader, which might be the earliest BYU has ever offered anyone in the program. It\u2019s an interesting story if you have a minute to read about her.

Hoops starts My biggest takeaway after watching the BYU men\u2019s basketball practice live stream on Wednesday was that the Cougars have a lot of dudes on the team. By dudes I mean really good players. This is probably the deepest team we\u2019ve ever seen in Provo. There are so many combinations Mark Pope can use. I hope BYU can go 10 or 11 deep. That will pay off later in the season.

That\u2019s all for now, but for this: Sometimes I pretend to be normal but it gets boring so I go back to being myself.

Always be yourself. Unless you are Batman, then be Batman.

Mask up, be good to others and have a great week.

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American surgeon and author Maxwell Maltz once wrote, \u201cThe most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognize your own worth.\u201d

Claire Little took up volleyball simply because she enjoyed it. She loved the competition and learning the skills to become successful. She never thought she would become so good the sport would become her pathway to a college scholarship.

Claire and her mother, Ursula, introduced themselves to BYU women\u2019s volleyball coach Heather Olmstead by sending an email. Olmstead watched the precocious 13-year-old play for her club team at Detroit GJNC Nationals in June of 2018 and at a BYU volleyball camp in July of that same year. Claire Little began talking to Olmstead and her staff on Face Time calls, always initiated by the Littles per NCAA rules.

When Olmstead made a scholarship offer to the 14-year-old eighth grader in January of 2019, there was stunned silence from the Littles for a moment.

\u201cThey offered her a scholarship and I just sat there like, \u2018What just happened?\u2019\u201d Ursula Little said. \u201cMy daughter just reacted and said \u2018yes.\u201d Then Heather and the coaches were like, \u2018Is that OK, Mom?\u2019 And I said, \u201cthat\u2019s completely OK.\u2019 We were shocked and amazed and happily surprised that she was offered.\u201d

As a freshman at Vista Murrieta High School in the fall of 2019, Claire Little — a 6-foot-2 outside hitter — led her team to the Division I California state title. Little totaled 461 kills (4.3 per set) in 2019 and hit .306 while adding 35 aces, 35 blocks and 247 digs and won numerous individual awards, including the National Freshman of the Year from PrepVolleyball.com.

In the state title match, Little smashed 30 of the team\u2019s 60 kills \u2014 a state record for a freshman \u2014 and hit over .400 in a 3-1 victory against Moraga Campolindo.

\u201cTo be honest, my mom and I never talked about playing in college,\u201d Claire Little said. \u201cI just played sports to have fun. I didn\u2019t know how good I was. I never thought about volleyball as way to get recruited. I didn\u2019t think it was possible.\u201d

Volleyball has played a big part in the lives of the Little family. Ursula Little earned a Masters degree in physical education at BYU and said her mentor was Cougar volleyball coaching legend Carl McGown. She coached the sport at community college and then at the club level. Claire Little\u2019s older brother, Ian, was part of BYU\u2019s 2020 men\u2019s volleyball recruiting class and is currently enrolled in Provo.

\u201cI love sports in general and I can appreciate that sports can be a vehicle to help kids gain strong character,\u201d Ursula Little said. \u201cThey can be given life lessons in a fun way.\u201d

Claire Little played volleyball at an early age but was active in a variety of sports alongside her brothers: Swimming, softball, gymnastics, basketball, soccer, tennis and even karate.

\u201cClaire had such good coordination,\u201d Ursula Little said. \u201cMy husband told me she looked uncoordinated sometimes, but he was so used to seeing her long, lanky body compared to the older kids she was playing against. We realized she was playing against kids that were two or three years older and keeping up with them. She\u2019s never had any fear playing sports.\u201d

The Temecula-Murrieta area \u2014 about an hour south and inland from Los Angeles \u2014 has been a hotbed for BYU recruiting over the years. Ursula Little said that at a recent stake conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard told the congregation that their area has the highest density of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members in the state of California.

The Littles are friends with former BYU All-American McKenna Miller, who played her high school and club volleyball in the Murrieta area.

\u201cI\u2019ve watched McKenna play and she is so amazing,\u201d Claire Little said. \u201cI\u2019m sad she won\u2019t be there when I go to BYU. I really never thought I would get to the level that she played at.\u201d

Claire Little\u2019s high school coach, Ed Taitano, said he knew right away he was going to get someone special in the gym.

\u201cShe had a good body frame, nice height and her volleyball IQ was growing every year,\u201d Taitano said. \u201cShe is so intense and a fierce competitor, even in practice. At club volleyball she usually practices against guys and she has no problem hitting the ball or blocking or digging them. The passion for the game when she plays, that\u2019s kind of exciting.\u201d

Taitano said Little came to a Vista Murrieta match when she was younger to watch a player who had committed to a Pac-12 school.

\u201cClaire told me she wanted to be just like that girl, and I told her, \u2018Claire, you are going to be so much better that she is.\u2019 You could tell Claire was on her way to be better in serve receive and playing defense. If she stays on this path, constantly learning and wanting to contribute, she\u2019s really going to go far and be an impact player at BYU.\u201d

Claire Little\u2019s sophomore year at Vista Murrieta has yet to begin due to the coronavirus pandemic. Taitano hopes his team will be able to practice together soon and the first matches are scheduled for December 19. Meanwhile, Little is working out with her club team, Forza 1.

Claire Little said she is fortunate to have her family, Taitano and club coach Orlando \u201cLindi\u201d Koja to push her to become the best player she can be.

\u201cThe competitiveness of volleyball always drove me,\u201d Claire Little said. \u201cYou\u2019re always touching the ball and everyone has to contribute. It\u2019s such a cool game. My favorite thing about volleyball is the energy. Being an outside hitter, I love setting the tone for the game. My job is to kill the ball not matter what the scenario is.\u201d

The Littles actually intended to come to Utah for General Conference in Salt Lake City last spring and take Claire to see her first BYU volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse, but COVID-19 canceled those plans.

\u201cIt was great getting to know Heather and the BYU coaching staff on the calls,\u201d Little said. \u201cMy first call, I was so nervous, but I warm up to people pretty fast. After the second call I knew I loved talking to the coaching staff. They always asked about my family and how we were doing. It was never a stressful thing. It was always just a nice conversation. I always wanted to go to BYU. I heard about BYU my entire life and knew it was the place for me.\u201d

Claire Little is 15 years old now and will turn 16 at the end of November. She has three years of high school and club volleyball to play before she enrolls at BYU and dons a Cougar uniform sometime in the spring or summer of 2023.

She now sees the future more clearly and better understands her own potential.

\u201cEver since I committed to BYU, I\u2019ve had a lot of conversations with my Mom,\u201d Claire Little said. \u201cWe feel like there\u2019s more I have to do with volleyball. For sure, I have a path with volleyball if I want to take it. I never thought that going to college, or playing with Team USA, or going to the Olympics was even a possibility. My mom told me I was meant to play this sport for a reason. I really would love to take volleyball as far as I can.\u201d

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During the BYU-Troy pregame, the LaVell Edwards Stadium crew played a song called, \u201cSuperhuman,\u201d by Campfire featuring Shane Eli.

I have no idea who either of those people are \u2014 God bless them in their music careers, anyway \u2014 but one of the lyrics stuck in my head: \u201cI fell asleep and woke up superhuman.\u201d

Cougar fans are feeling pretty good on Sunday morning after Saturday\u2019s 48-7 romp over the Trojans. Their football team is 2-0, didn\u2019t suffer a letdown after three weeks away and is still ranked in the Top 25 (22nd in the AP poll).

I don\u2019t know about you, but there haven\u2019t been a lot of mornings I\u2019ve woken up feeling superhuman since the coronavirus came into our lives seven months ago.

Enjoy it.

Waking up superhuman is also probably also how BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is feeling after a career game against Troy, finishing 23 of 28 for 392 yards and two touchdowns \u2014 while running for two more \u2014 in three quarters of play.

Put a cape on that guy.

It was truly a bizarre experience covering a college football game with no one in the stands but the dozen or so cutouts of BYU fans in a small section of the east stands. Crowd noise was piped into the PA system, the normal array of popular music was played and we heard the BYU fight song after all eight of the Cougars scores. You could still see the Provo Temple off in the distance and the \u201cY\u201d was lit on Y Mountain.

The George Q. Cannon, which is shot off after every BYU score, sounds entirely different in an empty stadium.

It was Game Day, just way different.

I\u2019m not complaining, though. It\u2019s been a long, hot, dry summer without BYU sports to cover and getting to see Cougar football in person is a blessing I won\u2019t take for granted ever again.

Like Tucanos for the press box pregame meal, Game Day is awesome every time.

BYU showcased the debut of its actual defense \u2014 not the one that was modified to face Navy\u2019s option \u2014 and turned in another dominating performance.

Other than a blown assignment at the end of the first half that resulted in a 55-yard pass play to set up Troy\u2019s only touchdown, the defense was solid against the Trojans high-tempo attack. BYU had four sacks, knocked down a half-dozen passes and forced Troy into some long-yardage situations by winning first down consistently. All we heard this week was how the Trojans had some athletes on offense, but the Cougars allowed Troy to gain more than 20 yards on a drive just once in 12 opportunities.

Offensively, BYU wasn\u2019t gashing the defense for long running plays like it did against Navy but Wilson was simply terrific in the pass game. His pocket was clean most of the game and his receivers made plays. I believe Gunner Romney, who caught five passes for 138 yards, is still leading the country in yards per catch (30.2).

The offense scored the first two times it had the ball against Navy to set the tone in that game but I really feel like the Cougar defense was the catalyst on Saturday. BYU started the game with three consecutive stops, including one with their backs against the wall after a muffed punt gave the Trojans their only good field position of the night.

The shame of it is we may never know how good the Cougars really are unless some scheduling breaks in their favor. Playing in late November or December might not be ideal weather-wise but if it gives BYU a chance to play a ranked opponent or a P5 foe, I\u2019m all for it.

What\u2019s most impressive to me is that in wins against Navy and Troy, the Cougars broke the will of the other team. I\u2019m not disparaging their effort, but it was clear at a certain point neither of those team wanted any more of the Cougars.

In his postgame interview on KSL Radio, head coach Kalani Sitake said this team was just special.

That could be just another name for superhuman, right?

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Here\u2019s what\u2019s going in inside Darnell\u2019s head. Just wanted to remind everybody to relax; We\u2019re all crazy. It\u2019s not a competition.

BYU football fans had about five days to revel in how well their Cougars played in thrashing Navy last Monday. Visions of undefeated seasons danced in their heads. They giggled when talking to their poor Ute friends who don\u2019t even have football this fall.

On Saturday, the bombshell dropped: The Sept. 19 game at Army has been postponed due to a number of positive COVID-19 tests among the Cougars.

It\u2019s been said God gives us only what we can handle. Apparently, God has very high expectations for BYU football fans.

Opinions and responses varied. Some fans are still hopeful that the game can be rescheduled. The teams share two open dates in Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, though the Cadets would have to give up a bye week before the Navy game for the latter.

Others feel as if this just marks the beginning of a terrible trend that will end the Cougars season.

This is very unfortunate for BYU because the team can\u2019t practice fully together during the quarantine, just in small groups. It will be difficult to maintain the momentum they had built throughout the summer and first game. The Cougars are a veteran group and have spent the past six months dealing with all the uncertainty of the coronavirus, so maybe they can keep focused and be ready for the Sept. 26 meeting at home against Troy.

Meanwhile, BYU fans on social media continue to play the \u201cWhy can\u2019t we have nice things?\u201d card.

Who\u2019s coming to the game?

BYU has allotted 6,000 tickets for the meeting with Troy. The players have been told they will be taken care of with tickets for their families. Season ticket holders will get the opportunity to go and some tickets have been set aside for students. Here\u2019s a thought: What if all 6,000 tickets aren\u2019t sold? Sure, the Cougars generally get more than 50,000 at LES for home games, but it\u2019s entirely possible that some fans aren\u2019t going to be comfortable heading into a closed environment, even if social distancing is allowed. I\u2019m sure BYU brass have a plan, but that would be really awkward if they were\u2019\u2019t able to distribute all of the tickets.

Kids will be kids

There\u2019s really no way of knowing the complete story of how several BYU football players contracted the COVID-19 virus. They are college students and social interaction is part of their existence. Conspiracy theorists can blame the \u201cYoung and Dumb\u201d parties in Provo but this was probably inevitable. I\u2019m sure BYU considered this a possibility and planned accordingly.

I also wonder if something like this can affect chemistry on the team. For instance, if one of the captains or team leaders finds out that another player went to a party and infected others on the team, could that cause resentment or hard feelings?

The sound of football

One good thing about playing in empty or partially empty stadiums is that you can hear the players and coaches a lot more. You can also really hear the pads popping as well. It was interesting watching BYU players celebrate and encourage each other during the Navy game. Makes me feel like I\u2019m watching a high school football game \u2014 which I have been pretty much every week. Thank goodness those fellas have been observing social distancing and staying healthy.

Here\u2019s the vote

BYU is 21st in this week\u2019s AP Top 25 and 22nd in the Coaches Poll. Not bad after not being ranked going into the season. Army is 23rd and 25th, respectively. Interestingly, Boise State received six votes in the AP poll and 15 in the Coaches Poll, even though all of their games have been postponed.

Let\u2019s play ball

The NCAA is in the final stages of approving a start to the college basketball season. Latest indications are that the season will start on Nov. 21. Last year, BYU played its first exhibition game on Nov. 1, so the 2020-21 season will begin about three weeks later than normal.

I\u2019m really interested in how Mark Pope gets this varied and eclectic roster to come together.

What might have been

I can\u2019t tell you how good it was to watch the BYU women\u2019s soccer scrimmage on Saturday. BYUtv made it available online and the Blue beat the White 5-2. This just in: All-American Mikayla Colohan is still really, really good. She had a hat trick (three goals) and two assists.

BYUtv is also making plans to make available scrimmages from other sports like volleyball, baseball and softball, so stay tuned.

Did you see that?

The Daily Mirror has reported a seventh sighting of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland this year.

So it appears that anything is possible in 2020.

Pros will pro

The NFL got started last Thursday but the full slate of action was available on Sunday, with two games scheduled for Monday night. Not many things better than watching Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams, Kyle Van Noy and others showing off their talents on the biggest stage possible.

That\u2019s all I\u2019ve got, but for this: Remember that the first 40 years of childhood are the hardest.

Stay safe and healthy and have a great week.

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Senior All-American Mikayla Colohan scored a hat trick and added two assists in the BYU women\u2019s soccer team\u2019s annual Blue and White scrimmage on Saturday night at South Field.

The Blue team was the first team to find the back of the net, as Colohan connected with freshman Abbie Kotter who had snuck behind the Black team\u2019s defense and blasted the ball past the goalkeeper to put Blue on top 1-0 in the eighth minute.

In the 15th minute, sophomore Olivia Wade collected a pass from Colohan and increased Blue\u2019s lead to 2-0. However in the 20th minute, Black was able to get on the board as sophomore Ellie Maughan sent a cross into the box and sophomore Rachel McCarthy sent the ball into the far netting of the goal to bring the score to 2-1 halfway through the first half.

Colohan then scored back-to-back goals from just outside the 18-yard box in the 24th and 34th minutes to keep Blue on top 4-1. In the final minute of the first half, Black scored as Maughan received the ball at the top of the box and connected with the back of the net bringing the score to 4-2 as the two teams headed into the locker room.

At halftime, Blue led both teams with 11 shots while Black tallied seven.

In the second half, the two teams mixed their rosters and the game saw an even half with only one goal being scored. Colohan completed her hat trick in the 73rd minute as she received a long ball from Maughan and connected with the back of the goal to bring the score to 5-2 for the Blue team.

On the game the Cougars combined for 40 shots, including 18 on goal. Colohan led the way with a total of three goals, two assists and 10 shots. In goal, senior Cassidy Smith led the goalkeepers with six saves.

The 2020 fall season was postponed due to the COVID-10 pandemic. The West Coast Conference will announce plans for when the season will resume at a later date.

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