While BYU football and men’s basketball pays the bills, there are hundreds of students in other sports in the athletic program that train just as hard and compete on a national level. I have the privilege of covering some of these sports and it’s a true honor.
In reality, these programs lead the way in how BYU can compete on a national level.
Here are a few things on their New Year’s Wish Lists.
BYU women’s volleyball
A healthy Sara Hamson and McKenna Miller for 2019 and many more sold-out matches against P5 programs in the Smith Fieldhouse, long may it stand.
The 2018 season was plenty of fun with the Cougars undefeated and ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks. They are replacing some all-timers in Roni Jones-Perry and Lyndie Haddock-Eppich, but the program will roll on as one of the nation’s elite. You don’t just win 90 percent of your matches by chance. Heather Olmstead can coach.
BYU men’s volleyball A fourth straight Final Four and an upset of heavily favored Long Beach State in the finals.
Moreover, they are hoping setter Will Stanley is all that and a bag of chips and that freshman Davide Gardini is the next great foreign player for the Cougars. Men’s volleyball is another program that hangs with anyone and competes at the highest level. This will be a pretty big challenge for Shawn Olmstead, who is not only replacing three senior starters (Leo Durkin, Brenden Sander and Price Jarman), but two assistant coaches as well.
BYU women’s basketball
An NCAA tournament bid for the Cougars and water for Juddy’s horses.
The guard line for the Cougars — freshman Shaylee Gonzales, Brenna Chase and Paisley Johnson — is one of the best in WCC. The post play of Hamson, Shalae Salmon, Jasmine Moody and freshman Babalu Ugwu needs to reach the same level of consistency for BYU to get to the postseason.
A rebound year.
The Cougars made the NCAA Tournament in 2017 but failed to even qualify for the WCC tourney last season. Head coach Mike Littlewood cleaned house and intends to get BYU back on track. Pitcher Jordan Wood will be the ace and I expect Keaton Kringlen to get back to the .350 range as a hitter.
How about 30 home runs from catcher Libby Sugg — if teams will pitch to her — and the pitching depth to get past the regional round in the NCAAs?
The Cougars are a regular in the NCAA postseason, but haven’t been able to advance to the Super Regional since 2010.
BYU women’s soccer
A home game in the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament.
As we learned during the BYU women’s volleyball tournament run, playing at home makes a huge difference. The Cougars had just one senior (Madie Gates) on last year’s 13-5-1, WCC championship team and also lose freshman sensation Olivia Wade to a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but everyone else comes back. There’s solid play in goal from senior-to-be Sabrina Davis and plenty of scoring and defense. Win the right games and force the NCAA into keeping the Cougars at home for the tournament.
Another top 20 finish and more All-Americans like Shannon Evans.
Evans was the school’s first individual qualifier for nationals in 14 years and took seventh on the bar at the NCAA Championships.
BYU track and field
At least two individual champions in the NCAA outdoor meet.
We’re looking at you, Matt Owens and Clayson Shumway (3,000m steeplechase), Rory Linkletter (5,000m) and Whittni Orton (1,500m).
Keeping the train rolling.
The men’s team returned to the NCAA Championships for the first time in 12 years this spring, finishing 24th. Patrick Fishburn has moved on to a professional career, but Rhett Rasmussen and Peter Kuest return after strong sophomore campaigns. On the women’s side, Rose Huang goes into her senior year as one of the nation’s top golfers.
BYU cross country
Taking that next big step.
It will be hard to top this season, when the men’s team took second and the women seventh at the NCAA Championships. But national titles will be up for grabs again in 2019 and the Cougars have the talent to keep competing at the top.