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BYU headed to USC for NCAA tourney, to face Pepperdine

BYU headed to USC for NCAA tourney, to face Pepperdine

PROVO — After falling to Utah in the Mountain West Conference women's volleyball tournament championship match late Saturday in Las Vegas, BYU received an at-large bid Sunday to the NCAA Tournament.

The Cougars (25-3) will take on Pepperdine (17-11) of the West Coast Conference Friday at 6 p.m., in a first-round matchup hosted by Southern California at the Lyon Center in Los Angeles.

The winner of the BYU-Pepperdine contest will play Saturday night against the winner of the USC-UC Santa Barbara match. USC is the No. 12 seed in the 64-team tournament.

"We feel very good about getting back to the NCAA Tournament," said BYU coach Jason Watson. "BYU has a rich history of competing in the NCAA Championship. Our athletes worked extremely hard this season to put us in a position to continue the legacy our program has achieved over the years."

The Cougars, winners of the regular-season MWC title, are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, when they defeated New Mexico State in the first round and lost at Hawaii in the second round.

Pepperdine tied for second in the West Coast Conference, a league that is sending five teams to the NCAAs.

"Pepperdine is a team that has competed well this year and is very deserving of its selection," Watson said. "We have a lot of work to do between now and Friday, but we look forward to the challenge."

BYU was hoping to be an NCAA Tournament host, but was not selected. Two other MWC teams, Utah and Colorado State, were chosen as first- and second-round hosts.

The Cougars and Waves have met 17 times, with BYU owning a 12-5 series lead. The two teams have met twice in the NCAA Tournament, including a Cougar first-round victory in 1987 in Provo.

Watson is no stranger to Pepperdine in the NCAA Tournament — he's faced the Waves twice as an assistant coach. In 1999, when he was at Arkansas State, he lost at Pepperdine in the first round. The following year, when he was at Kansas State, he helped lead the Wildcats to victory over the Waves in a second-round match that was also played at Pepperdine.

BYU played seven teams that qualified for this year's 64-team field and posted a 7-3 record against those teams. The Cougars defeated Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Nevada and Utah State, Colorado State and Utah. All three losses came at the hands of MWC foes — Colorado State and Utah.

Those three defeats have come within the past month as the Cougars lost at Utah on Nov. 4, snapping their 20-match winning streak. A week later, they fell at home to CSU. Then, on Saturday, the Cougars were defeated again by Utah in the MWC Tournament championship match.

BYU is the 11th-winningest program in NCAA Tournament history, boasting a 27-21 mark.