The West Virginia University volleyball team will head to Provo, Utah for the first time in program history this weekend for a trio tournament at the BYU Nike Invitational, where they will meet up with BYU, Stanford and Wichita State.
The Mountaineers will play No. 9 BYU on Thursday, Wichita State on Friday and No. 1 Stanford on Saturday.
"Heading into this weekend is going to be a challenge for us," WVU head coach Reed Sunahara said. "Stanford is No. 1 for a reason, and BYU is up there in the top five. Wichita State's a great program historically. It's gonna be a tough tournament."
All three teams were placed in the Top 25 of the Coaches' Poll in 2017. Coach Sunahara has a history of matching up against tough components during their non-conference schedule.
"I think it's just really important going into this tournament that we don't get down on ourselves, that we always continue to have a 'refuse to lose' mindset, and that we go out there an no matter if it's No. 1, or No. 8, or No. 25, that we are going and giving out best effort and improving, because that's the type of teams you are going to see in the Big 12," junior setter Erin Slinde said.
No. 9 BYU is picked to finish atop the West Coast Conference, and are led by third-year head coach Shay Goulding. The Cougars finished their 2017 season by reaching the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament, placing them at ninth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) coaches poll. The Mountaineers took a 3-0 fall during their last meeting with BYU in 2014. This year's match will begin at 9 p.m. on Thursday and can be streamed on TheW.tv.
Wichita State is on a 3-0 start to their season with having defeated VCU, Howard and James Madison and was picked as a preseason favorite to win the American Athletic Conference (AAC) for the second season in a row. The Shockers ended their 2017 season ranked No. 23 after reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This first-ever meeting between West Virginia and Wichita State will tip off at 5 p.m. and can also be aired on TheW.tv.
No. 1 Stanford is off to a 2-0 start in their 2018 season. Stanford advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in 2017, ending their season 30-4 (19-1 in the Pac-12). This will be WVU's first time meeting with the Cardinal. Their match will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and can be streamed on TheW.tv.
The Mountaineers ended last weekend with a 2-1 record, defeating Georgia Southern and UConn on Friday. They took a fall against Wright State on Saturday but still took home the WVU Invitational title.
Five of the nine freshmen were seen on the court last weekend, with Kristina Jordan and Kristin Lux starting all three matches for the Mountaineers. Jordan, a four-year letter winner from Liberty Charter High School in San Diego, placed second on the team last weekend for West Virginia, having 15 blocks. Lux ranks second on the team in kills, with 27.
The Mountaineers are currently 10 wins away from pursuing their 700th win in program history, leaving them with a 690-724 record. Sunahara owns a 41-54 record with West Virginia.