BYU’s Justina Grubb /// Photo: Derek Lucero
BYU is currently on the team bus heading north to Ellensburg, Wash., for its DI Elite quarterfinal against Stanford tomorrow. The western portion on the championship is playing a Friday-Saturday schedule, and will therefore know its final’s representative on Saturday.
“The energy level is right where we want it: They’re excited but composed,” said BYU coach Tom Waqa, whose players were relaxing and watching a movie. “They’re not getting caught up in the national hype. I don’t want them mentally strained, just relaxed. Tomorrow we’ll be fired up and ready.”
The Cougars have had a couple of busy weeks leading up to the road trip, but it was the five-point loss to Central Washington a month ago that made the biggest impact.
“That game was really encouraging,” the coach said. “The first time we met Central Washington in the fall, they had us by a big margin, 40-17. This time, even though we took the loss, we now know that we can match up with them. We just need to fix little things and make adjustments for very good teams like Central Washington.”
Not that BYU is looking past Stanford, its quarterfinal opponent this Friday. The Cardinal participated in the DI Pacific Mountain conference (where it finished second to UC Davis), but followed the regular season with a relatively quiet month leading up to the post-season. BYU can empathize. The Cougars played good games against visiting Central Washington and Canada’s Lethbridge, but the rest of the local competition is lacking.
That’s where the experience of leaders like Eagle Jordan Gray, who is playing her final games with BYU, captain Jessie Beck, loose forwards Justina Grubb and Sia Skipps, scrumhalf Nicole McCullough – among many others – come in handy. They’ll lead a cohesive effort that will include some successful freshmen.
“I’m really confident with the players that we have,” Waqa said. “Like any team, we had some injuries toward the end of the season, but that’s what it comes down to. You get the bruises and the bumps, but you have to carry on.”
Waqa will alter the lineup based on what the opposition puts on the field, and teams could see players like Gray rotate between the loose forwards or centers.
“It’ll be fun,” Waqa looked toward the next two days.
The Central Washington vs. New Mexico quarterfinal will kick off at 2 p.m PDT and all games will be streamed live HERE. BYU and Stanford will follow at 4 p.m. PDT. The two victors will compete Saturday at 2 p.m. PDT for the berth to the DI Elite final May 7.