Provo • Somewhere in the madness of the post-match celebration after BYU knocked off Florida 3-1 Friday night in an NCAA Women’s Volleyball regional semifinal, fellow seniors Roni Jones-Perry and Lyndie Haddock-Eppich shared a nice moment.
“Right after that last ball went down, I looked at Lyndie and it was just kinda like this feeling of like, ‘we freakin’ did it,' " Jones-Perry said.
What the Cougars (30-1) did was advance to the tournament’s Elite Eight for the first time in the seniors’ remarkable careers, after having stumbled in Round of 16 matches the three previous years.
Florida (26-7) won the first set 25-23 in front of a sellout crowd of 5,104, the third-largest crowd to watch women’s volleyball in Smith Fieldhouse history, before the Cougars dominated with 25-13, 25-17 and 25-19 wins to advance.
Fourth-seeded BYU and fifth-seeded Texas will battle at 6 p.m. MST Saturday night in the Provo Regional final for the right to play in the Final Four next weekend in Minneapolis, Minn. The Longhorns (23-4) dumped Michigan 3-1 in Friday’s earlier match.
“Being at home was obviously super helpful,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “The crowd was unbelievable. I want to thank the crowd and obviously recognize them for showing up today and supporting us. I know they will be here tomorrow.
“We just feel so loved,” Olmstead continued. “There is something magical about this team and what they have created and that atmosphere out there. We just feel so grateful.”
Jones-Perry led the way with 17 kills, while Kennedy Eschenberg had 11 and Madelyn Robinson 10. Holly Carlton led Florida with 16 kills.
“Hat’s off to BYU,” said Florida coach Mary Wise, who has more Division I wins than any female coach in NCAA history. “That’s a very good team that played well tonight after the first set. … You can see why they are where they are, with their offense and defense.”
Wise said BYU used its “huge advantage” of playing at home in the regionals — much like the Gators did last year to advance — and proved that it deserved its top-four seeding.
As for that first set, when Florida jumped out to a 5-0 lead, saw BYU tie it at 15-all, then recovered to hand the Cougars only their fourth set loss at home all season, Olmstead said it was nothing to worry about.
“Yeah, we loved the first set. I thought we stayed in that set all the way up until we almost tied it up at 24. There was nothing wrong with that set. We absolutely loved the way we played. We wanted to clean it up a little bit in the second set. There is a little bit of time to get used to each team. I think it took us a little bit longer than normal, but we figured it out and we didn’t look back after we did.,” she said.
Florida started the tallest front line the Cougars have faced this season — players ranging from 6-foot-8 to 6-6 — and flustered BYU early. The Cougars hit just .070 in the first set.
Then a light went on. The Cougars hit .448 in the second set and were in charge the rest of the way.
Olmstead called it a “great match that will go down in the history as one of the greatest matches we’ve played here. It was fun to be a part of, and I didn’t even touch the ball.”
No. 5 Texas 3, Michigan 1
Fifth-seeded Texas looked to be in trouble midway through its match with the unseeded Wolverines, but righted itself nicely and moved into Saturday’s 6 p.m. regional final.
The scores were 25-10, 27-29, 29-27 and 25-19.
“We just started executing,” said UT coach Jerritt Elliott. “There weren’t a whole lot of adjustments.”
After easily winning the first set, the Longhorns led 23-19 in the second set before Michigan scored four straight points to tie it and eventually won it on Jenna Lerg’s ace.
Texas trailed 20-14 in the third set before rallying to take a 29-27 win. A couple questionable calls went the Longhorns’ way when they trailed 20-16 and 20-17, and they took advantage.
“We just kept reiterating to ourselves to not lose the same fight we showed in the [first two sets],” said Morgan Johnson.
Micaya White led Texas with 21 kills, while Logan Eggleston added 17 and Yaazie Bedard-Ghani had 15.
Elliott said before BYU and Florida took the court that he expected BYU to win, but was not looking forward to facing the Cougars on their home court.
“I would rather play them on a neutral court,” he deadpanned, stating the obvious."