Every good team has a player who can keep things loose and free when situations call for that kind of attitude and mindset.
For BYU’s No. 7-ranked women’s volleyball team, that player is Cosette “Cosy” Burnett, a senior middle blocker in the highly successful program that is making its sixth straight trip to the NCAA women’s volleyball quarterfinals this weekend.
The 13th-seeded Cougars (30-2) will take on No. 4 seed Kentucky (28-3) on the Wildcats’ home court at 10 a.m. MS Friday at Memorial Coliseum. ESPNU will televise the Sweet 16 match.
The BYU-Kentucky winner will face the Nebraska-Colorado winner Saturday for the right to advance to the Final Four in Kansas City, Mo. The Cougars last played in the Final Four in 2014, defeating Texas before falling to Penn State in the national championship match.
Burnett, who is from San Diego, just laughs at suggestions the Cougars will be intimidated by the SEC champion’s home crowd.
“We are a team that plays really well on the road,” she said. “We like to take the show on the road, as they say. We don’t get intimidated by crowds, and we feed off it. … We know that Kentucky is going to bring their crowd, but it doesn’t matter. We are going to do our thing.”
The Cougars will be comfortable in Kentucky, Burnett and coach Heather Olmstead said, because they were in Lexington two years ago in a similar situation. They lost 26-24, 25-17 and 25-23 to No. 4 Nebraska in the final match of Alexa Gray’s fabulous career.
“We know what the weather is going to be like, and I went shopping there last time,” said Burnett, laughing and showing the lighter side of her personality. “I don’t know if anybody is supposed to know that, but it was fun. … But yeah, we know the lay of the land, we know the arena and we know what it is going to be like and kinda the vibe of the place.”
Burnett was third on the team in kills that year, her sophomore season, then missed all but two games last year after she tore her abdominal muscle early in the season. She was asked to move from outside hitter to middle blocker this year, and her play there, along with that of redshirt freshman Kennedy Redding, is a big reason why the Cougars are making a run in the Big Dance.
“Cosy playing the middle has been huge for us,” Olmstead said. “She’s stepped into that role and helped fill a void [left by all-American Whitney Howard and Amy Boswell] with her energy. She has done a great job.”
Burnett refers to herself as the “Energizer bunny” of the team and is known for her wild celebrations. One was so extreme that she got her hair tangled in the net.
Burnett is feeling a sense of urgency, along with fellow seniors Alohi Robins-Hardy and Maddie Graham, because their careers are coming to an end.
“Hopefully, [six consecutive] Sweet 16 appearances can be part of my legacy as I leave, that I was here for this chunk of time,” she said. “I definitely want more than just five or six Sweet 16s and a national championship game. I want more than that, but it is really cool. It is a credit to all the girls who have been here in the past, that they can leave that legacy and that culture.”
Olmstead said there probably will not be another Cosy at BYU — literally and figuratively. Burnett said her rare nickname is short for Cosette, the character in the novel and Broadway play Les Miserables.
“I like being Cosy,” Burnett said. “It is awesome, especially in the volleyball world. There are like no other Cosys, so it is cool.”
NCAA VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT
Sweet 16 matchup
Where • Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
First serve • 10 a.m. MST Friday
TV • ESPNU, ESPN3