LLOYD: Saluting the success of BYU women’s athletics
The BYU women's cross country team celebrates their national championship after returning to Provo from Stillwater, Okla. It was the fifth national title for the women's cross country program.
The BYU women's basketball team celebrates their NCAA first round victory against Rutgers at Strahan Arena in San Marcos, Texas, on Monday, March 22, 2021.
The BYU women's cross country team celebrates winning the 2020-21 national title at the 2020 NCAA Cross Country Championships at the OSU Cross Country Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Monday, March 15, 2021.
BYU's Paisley Harding goes to the basket against Diamond Johnson of Rutgers during a first round NCAA Tournament game at Strahan Arena in San Marcos, Texas on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Hasn’t this been a fun year to be a BYU sports fan?
You’ve got to hand it to the Cougar football team, which thrived much better than many teams did in the COVID-19-impacted season and ended up 11-1 and ranked No. 11 in the nation.
And although the last game was a disappointing loss to No. 11-seed UCLA in the NCAA tournament, the BYU men’s basketball team was also fun to follow. Seeing them give No. 1-ranked Gonzaga one of its tougher games in the West Coast Conference championship was pretty thrilling.
We certainly don’t want to leave out the talented Cougar men’s volleyball team (currently ranked No. 2 in the nation) or the BYU men’s cross country team (which was the top-ranked team for most of the year before running into some challenges at the NCAA championships with Conner Mantz winning the individual title).
But guys, I think it’s time you step back.
The spotlight right now belongs on Cougar women’s athletics.
It starts with the BYU women’s cross country team, which just overwhelmed the field to win its first NCAA title since 2002.
I hope you were fortunate enough to be able to watch the race on March 15, since those athletes had to tackle an incredibly challenging course and windy conditions, as well as a really good field of runners.
I got to talk to coach Diljeet Taylor and senior Anna Camp-Bennett about that experience and I came away incredible impressed with not only what that squad achieved but also the intensity of their team camaraderie. I know Cougar head men’s basketball coach Mark Pope likes to say they have the best locker room in America but I believe the women’s cross country team would give the men’s hoopsters a run for their money in that department.
Speaking of basketball, isn’t it fantastic that the BYU women’s squad had such a great showing in the NCAA tournament?
I absolutely loved watching the Cougar players show such heart and tenacity as they battled Rutgers and Arizona. Upsets in women’s basketball are not as common as they are in the men’s game (no lower seeded teams won at all in the 16 women’s tournament games on Sunday), so coming out on top as the underdog is always an impressive achievement.
If that wasn’t enough, no true BYU fan would ever diminish what a couple of the most successful Cougar programs are accomplishing right now as well.
The BYU women’s volleyball squad is 12-1 and ranked No. 15 in the country, while the Cougar women’s soccer team is 6-3 and ranked No. 16.
To top it off, the BYU gymnastics team is also enjoying another fantastic year as the Cougars won the MRGC title and is ranked No. 12 as they head to West Virginia for the NCAA regionals starting on April 1.
Taken as a whole, what BYU women athletes are doing right now is absolutely staggering and I feel fortunate to be able to be along for the ride.
I know there are probably some Cougar supporters who only pay attention to football and men’s basketball. Everyone has their own interests.
But I have to say I feel sorry for those folks because these other teams, particularly the women’s teams, can be engrossing to watch.
These athletes have great stories and put in staggering amounts of work to be the best they can be. Sometimes I fear they feel overshadowed and underappreciated.
I hope they realize, however, that there are a lot of us who love seeing their success and appreciate their efforts even when they have failures.
Considering how good these Cougar women’s teams have consistently been, I’m confident in saying there are going to be a lot more successes moving forward.
So come along with me and enjoy the ride!