Cougar Nation was ecstatic on Monday, seeing BYU get ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in nine years. Although it’s just the No. 23 spot, it’s indicative of the progress the program is making.
But what's most impressive is the fact that the Cougars were able to grow so much this season with a new coach.
I know it can feel like Mark Pope isn’t new. He was an assistant coach at BYU four years (2011-2015) and then was down the road at Utah Valley the next four years (2015-19), so he’s familiar.
Yet, he’s still just in his first season as BYU’s head coach, and usually teams don’t tend to click with their new coach so quickly. Plus, the team has done so while facing so much adversity this year, mainly just dealing with a multitude of injuries.
Before the season even started, Zac Seljaas broke his foot, TJ Haws had a knee procedure and Gavin Baxter suffered a shoulder injury. Seljaas and Haws both recovered in time to play when the season started, but Baxter sat out 25 games and only recently got back into action.
Then there’s Yoeli Childs, who served a nine-game NCAA-mandated suspension, then was sidelined four games with a finger injury.
Kolby Lee also had a knee injury that had him out for a game, Trevin Knell was out for nine games with a thumb injury and Dalton Nixon is currently out with a severe ankle sprain.
Jake Toolson also suffered an ankle injury a couple weeks ago, but has been playing through it and Connor Harding has been playing through a knee thing since the start of this year as well.
But because the Cougars are no strangers to having to reorganize themselves in order to overcome the endless barrage of injuries, they should be able to keep making it work for them.
And if BYU can manage to stay ranked through the rest of the season, then even better for them.
“Our job hasn't changed at all,” Pope said. “We can keep getting better every day and we can keep moving towards the goals we have or we cannot. The ranking doesn't really affect that, but I do know that it means something and it means something to people. We actually care, we care about our fans and we care about this community and we care about this school and how it's represented. For all those reasons, it's really fun, it's really rewarding and it's really great. But in terms of like, in the trenches for us, we have the same job.”
Sara Hamson is leaving her own mark at BYU
First of all, Sara is so much funnier that I thought. To be fair, I haven’t really spent much time with her — or the women’s basketball team — that much. In fact, she was the first player from the women’s basketball team that I had a one-on-one with.
Before Tuesday, I just knew the serious-faced Sara that showed up in pictures and was out on the court, but she’s also so much more. Also, before she broke into the 300 Block Club, I wasn’t even aware that her older sister and mother also played for BYU — and are the only other two players to record more than 300 career blocks.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen multiple players that come from athletic families and they either see their family members’ success and records as something they want to reach and break or they’re just wanting to play their own game and see what they can accomplish without any added pressure.
Sara definitely falls into the latter and, especially with Jennifer, is super understanding that she and her sister are very different players.
“My sister and I, as similar as we are, are very different,” Hamson said. “Yeah, she’s a little stronger than I am, but I like to think I’m a little faster than she is. We’re just different in our strengths and weaknesses and it just happened to go that she’s better offensively than I am and I’m better defensively.”
Being only a junior, it’ll be interesting to see how Sara finishes her collegiate career and what she’s remembered for at BYU.
• In case y’all weren’t aware, if you were looking to make it to the BYU-Gonzaga game this Saturday but don’t have tickets — you’re out of luck. The regular season home finale sold out earlier this week. I’m sorry for all of those that were hoping to be there for the matchup between two ranked teams in Marriott Center, but I’m not sorry that I’ll basically be court-side for it myself.
• It’s time to welcome in some new Cougars. On Wednesday, BYU women’s volleyball announced the signing of four recruits to join the team for the 2020 season. The signing class includes libero Madi Allen, middle blocker Leilani Dodson, middle blocker Allie Hakes and opposite Makayla Tolman.
• BYU football is now set to play a second Friday game in the upcoming 2020 season. On Tuesday, BYU and ESPN announced the Cougars’ home game against Houston is moving to Friday, Oct. 16 so it could be featured on either ESPN or ESPN2.
• Is Connor Harding possibly the defensive stopper No. 23 BYU will need to make a postseason run? Jay Drew of the Deseret News looks into why the sophomore could play that role moving forward.
• Sean Walker of KSL Sports takes a look at former BYU star Taysom Hill’s reaction to Drew Brees decision to return to the New Orleans Saints.
• The No. 2 BYU men’s volleyball could be without two of its best players for the two home matches this week against Concordia Irvine and USC, Darnell Dickson of the Daily Herald wrote.