PROVO — The BYU women's volleyball team played its final match of the regular season on Nov. 12, beating Portland in straight sets, in a match the seniors were hoping wouldn't be their last played at the Smith Fieldhouse. On Sunday, those same seniors received their wish.
The Cougars (27-3) were given a No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament Sunday night, which means they will host Princeton (19-4) this Friday, and should they win, host another match the following night. The NCAA committee only seeds the top 16 teams, with all of those teams hosting first- and second-round matches.
"This is so exciting," said BYU senior Amy Boswell after learning of her team's draw. "Everyone on senior night was sad, saying that this would be our last match at the fieldhouse. I was saying that I really hoped it wasn't the last one there. I'm super excited. A 13 seed is fantastic. Princeton is going to be a tough matchup."
The No. 10-ranked Cougars earned an automatic bid to the tournament by winning the West Coast Conference title outright for a third-straight year.
Should the Cougars get past the Tigers, they'll meet up with the winner of Utah vs. UNLV in a match that will take place earlier on Friday. While being relatively unfamiliar with Princeton, BYU played both the Rebels and Utes in the regular season, winning in straight sets over UNLV while dropping a 3-2 thriller to Utah.
"I'm thrilled for the team to be able to play at home again in front of our great crowd," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead. "We're excited to play Princeton in the first round. We're familiar with both UNLV and Utah, but we're focused on the Tigers."
The Cougars have seen good recent success in the 64-team tournament, advancing to the round of 16 in 2012, 2013 and in 2015 and clear to the championship match in 2014, where they fell to Penn State in straight sets. The 2014 season was an extraordinary effort, considering the unseeded Cougars were just one match removed from a national championship.
While another deep run is the hope, players and coaches will be focused on the task at hand, and that's taking on Princeton.
"They're going to be ready. Everybody always turns it up for the tournament," Boswell said of the Tigers. "We're excited. It's kind of nice knowing that we've already seen both UNLV and Utah. Obviously, our focus though is on Princeton. We'll see what happens and scout on Saturday."
First serve for BYU vs. Princeton will be at 7 p.m. MST this Friday at the Smith Fieldhouse.