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Two years ago this month, an unseeded BYU women's volleyball shocked second-seeded Texas in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in Oklahoma City, Okla., before losing in the championship match.
On Friday, the Cougars will have to beat the Longhorns on their home court to advance, as the No. 13-seeded Cougars meet the No. 4 Longhorns at 2 p.m. MST in a Sweet 16 match at Gregory Gymnasium on the UT campus in Austin.
The Sweet 16 and Final Four are not the same, but the roles the teams are may as well be.
Despite a better overall record, West Coast Conference champion BYU (29-3) is the decided underdog against Texas (24-4), which finished second to Kansas in the Big 12.
"We like the 13th seed," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead, who was an associate head coach under her brother, Shawn Olmstead, in 2014. "We like where it put us in the second round here in the Smith Fieldhouse, and then on the road as well. So we like the underdog role. Obviously we are the underdog heading into the Texas match and I think it fits our team really well."
The Cougars, who have won 13 straight matches, including a pair of sweeps over Princeton and UNLV last weekend. Seniors Amy Boswell, Whitney Young-Howard, Hannah Robison and Makenna Santiago are leading the way.
"The younger kids are doing an awesome job just following behind those girls, and they are doing a great job leading on and off the court," said Olmstead, who on Tuesday was named the All-Pacific South Region Coach of the Year by the AVCA. Boswell and freshman McKenna Miller earned First-Team honors and Young-Howard received honorable mention accolades.
It was nice recognition for Olmstead, who has managed to put her own stamp on a program that will be making its fifth straight appearance in the NCAA's Sweet 16.
"She does a good job of getting us focused and excited," said sophomore Veronica "Roni" Jones-Perry, a Copper Hills High product. "Friday's game is going to be a challenge, but I don't think it is anything we can't handle if we go in there focused and ready to compete hard."
The Cougars are approaching the match as if all the pressure is on Texas, which lost to Nebraska in last year's championship match in Omaha, Neb.
"Yeah, they are at home, they are the No. 4 seed, they are expected to win, so they probably feel like they have some pressure on them," Olmstead said. "They have been to the Final Four quite a few times in the past couple of years, so that is what they are used to. Our challenge is going to be to knock them out in the Sweet 16, if we can."
Redshirt freshman Micaya White leads the Longhorns. Her father, Randy White, played basketball at Louisana Tech and was the eighth overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Head coach Jerrit Elliott is in his 16th year directing one of the top programs in the country and surely remembers losing to BYU two years ago.
"They are a big, physical team," Olmstead said. "They are well-coached. They take some high swings, and they have decent blocking numbers as well. They are holding their opponents under .200 and hitting over .300, so we gotta figure out how to score and how to stop them from scoring."
At Gregory Gym, Austin, Texas
Friday's regional semifinals
BYU vs. Texas, 2 p.m. MST
Michigan vs. Creighton, 4:30 p.m.
TV • ESPNU
Saturday's Regional Final
Friday's winners, 6 p.m. MST