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BYU women's volleyball: Cougars receive early season test when taking on No. 1 Stanford

PROVO — Few, if any, BYU sports programs have proven as successful as the Cougar women's volleyball team in recent years, with the 2018 version appearing well-poised to reach even new heights.

For six straight seasons, the Cougars have reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament and advanced clear to the championship match in 2014 in what has clearly been one of the best runs for any BYU program in history. While the NCAA tournament is a ways off this year, the No. 9-ranked Cougars will have a chance to prove themselves against the best this weekend when hosting No. 1 Stanford in the BYU NIKE Invitational this Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Play in the tournament begins Thursday with BYU squaring off versus West Virginia and then against the Cardinal on Friday. The final match will pit the Cougars against Wichita State on Saturday. All three matches the Cougars play will begin at 7 p.m. MST and will be streamed live on TheW.tv. The match against Stanford will be carried live by BYUtv.

Roni Jones-Perry spikes the ball during BYU's sweep of UVU in this year's UCCU Crosstown Clash.
Roni Jones-Perry spikes the ball during BYU's sweep of UVU in this year's UCCU Crosstown Clash.

Considering who the Cougars have returning, it's somewhat easy to set expectations high and it's why they've received such a high preseason ranking. Key returners include outside hitter Roni Jones-Perry, who led the team in kills last season, along with standout libero Mary Lake. Other standouts returning to the court are outside hitter McKenna Miller, middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and twin sisters Lacy Haddock and Lyndie Haddock-Eppich.

Joining the veteran returners are a group of promising relative newcomers led by standout true freshmen Heather Gneiting and Madi Robinson, among others. Both freshmen have compiled impressive stats on the early season, which has the Cougars at 2-0 after two wins against Duke. They also won an exhibition match against Utah Valley.

Utah Valley's Alexis Davies (front), Kristen Allred (left-center) and Jasmine Niutupuivaha (center) await an attack attempt from BYU's Madi Robinson (right-center) during Saturday afternoon's exhibition contest at BYU's Smith Fieldhouse.
Utah Valley's Alexis Davies (#15), Kristen Allred (#16) and Jasmine Niutupuivaha (#12) await an attack attempt from BYU's Madi Robinson (#3) during Saturday afternoon's exhibition contest at BYU's Smith Fieldhouse in Provo.
Clark Wiesenberg, UVU Athletics

The Cougars have won four straight West Coast Conference championships and will begin conference play on Sept. 20 when hosting Pacific. Other key matches include a match versus No. 7 USC on Sept. 7 as part of the Marquette Tournament and a match on Sept. 13 versus No. 22 Utah.

Most home matches can be viewed on BYUtv throughout the season with all matches streamed live on TheW.tv.