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BYU, UVU women’s volleyball teams earn NCAA tournament bids

By Darnell Dickson daily Herald - | Apr 4, 2021
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BYU volleyball players celebrate after hearing they would be one of the top 16 seeds during the NCAA selection show which they watched from the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Sunday, April 4, 2021.

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BYU volleyball players watch the NCAA selection show from the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Sunday, April 4, 2021.

The BYU women’s volleyball secured a bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the West Coast Conference regular-season title.

Sitting in the Smith Fieldhouse and watching the selection show on Sunday afternoon, the Cougars were wondering if they had done enough to earn one of the top 16 seeds.

The answer is yes.

BYU (16-1) was named the No. 16 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will receive a first round bye. The Cougars will play the winner of the first round match between Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Rider and UCLA of the Pac 12. The second round matchup will be Thursday, April 15 at 8:30 p.m. MT and can be seen on ESPN3.

“We’ve been preparing all season for this moment,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “We’re going to be ready regardless of our situation, who we play, what time and where. We’re excited to play a good opponent. We’ll prepare here all week and get in some good practices. We’ll continue to work to get better in preparation for that Thursday match.”

If BYU wins its second round match the likely third round opponent would be No. 1 overall seed Wisconsin.

This is the Cougars 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and their ninth straight invitation. Olmstead has led BYU to the tournament in each of her six seasons at the helm and reached the Final Four in 2018.

The entire 2021 tournament will be staged in Omaha, Nebraska with first round games beginning Tuesday, April 14.

It was a good Selection Sunday for the state of Utah, which placed four teams in the field of 48. One of those teams was Utah Valley University, which swept New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference title match on Saturday. It’s the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth and the first for long time coach Sam Atoa, now in his 22nd season in Orem.

“We had a couple of other opportunities in the WAC finals and we just weren’t the better team,” Atoa said after beating New Mexico State. “To win today, I was just so elated. I knew that at some point hopefully before my career was over that we could be able to experience that together. There have definitely been some challenges along the way but those challenges have allowed us to be stronger and be more resilient, especially with this year. I’m just so proud of them for battling through some challenges and injuries to earn this win today.”

The Wolverines (14-5) will face Sun Belt Conference champion Texas State (30-8) in the first round at 1:30 p.m. on April 14.

Weber State – coached by former BYU men’s volleyball player Jeremiah Larsen – nabbed its first invitation to the NCAA Tournament since 1988 by winning the Big Sky Tournament. The Wildcats (18-1) take on MAC champion Bowling Green (22-1) in the first round. The University of Utah (13-4) earned the No. 12 overall seed and will play the Long Island University-Pitt winner in the second round.

Three teams – BYU, Pepperdine and San Diego – will represent the WCC. The Waves (16-3) will play a first round match against American East champion Maryland-Baltimore County (11-2) and San Diego (12-4) – one of the last four teams in the tournament – will meet Southland Conference champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (14-4).

Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas are the top four seeds in the tournament.

No. 16 seed BYU (16-1) vs. Rider-UCLA winner

Thursday, April 15

8:30 p.m. MT (ESPN3)

CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska

The Word: This is the 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance for BYU and the ninth straight. … Rider (7-4) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. … The Broncs are making their second NCAA appearance. … UCLA (14-6) finished fifth in the Pac 12 regular season standings. … The entire tournament will be played in Omaha, Nebraska, with the championship match scheduled for April 24.

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