Cougars take on James Madison in first round of NCAA Tournament
Courtesy BYU Photo
The Smith Fieldhouse hasn’t been silent this late in November very often.
Except for the 2021 spring season (when the entire NCAA Tournament was held in Omaha, Neb.) BYU women’s volleyball has hosted the first two rounds of postseason play every year since 2014.
This season is a new challenge for the 18th-ranked Cougars (21-6), who earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play at Pitt against Sun Belt champion James Madison (24-4) on Friday.
A win creates the possibility a rematch with the No. 2 seed Panthers (27-3), who knocked off BYU 3-1 in Provo on Sept. 3.
“I think our team has done a great job this season.,” Cougar coach Heather Olmstead said. “I’m proud of the work that they’ve done to get to this point, how resilient our group has been, how we’ve stayed together and just keep getting better as the season goes on. I think we’re playing some of our best volleyball, and we’re excited to match up against a good JMU team. I know they’re a good team, and they have good coaches. Lauren (Steinbrecher) is a good coach, so they’ll be ready to go, and we’re excited to match up with them in Pittsburgh.”
BYU finished second to No. 3 ranked San Diego in the West Coast Conference. The Toreros (27-1) were given a No. 2 seed and will host the first two rounds at Jenny Craig Pavilion. Four team from the WCC made the tournament, including BYU, San Diego, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
James Madison has won 15 matches in a row, including a 3-1 victory against Texas State in the Sun Belt Tournament championship on Nov. 20. The Dukes are returning to the NCAA’s for the first time since getting in back-to-back trips in 2016 and 2017.
“Our team has been putting in the work this whole season, and there’s no better place to go than to Pitt for the first round and play JMU,” BYU senior middle blocker Heather Gneiting said. “We’re ready to take it one game at a time and are just grateful for the opportunity to play every day.”
This year marks the 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 35th overall for the Cougars. BYU has advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Last year, the Cougars defeated Boise State and Utah at the Smith Fieldhouse, then lost to No. 6 Purdue 3-2 in the Sweet 16 at Pitt.
The Pittsburgh quadrant begins with the BYU-James Madison matchup at 2 p.m. MT in Fitzgerald Fieldhouse, followed by Pitt and Colgate at 5 p.m. MT. The winners will meet on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.
Junior outside hitter Erin Livingston, who leads BYU with 4.39 kills per set, added, “This tournament has a ton of good teams in it. We’re happy to be one of them and we’re ready to go.”