With a Mountain West championship and second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Boise State volleyball team emerged as one of the best teams on campus last season.
Four seniors return, including the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year, positioning the Broncos for another postseason run.
If that isn’t enough reason to be at Bronco Gym this weekend for the Boise State Classic, here are three more reasons why you should be in the stands (or at least paying attention) — including a visit from the nation’s best team:
1. Record-setting outside hitter
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Sierra Nobley became the first Bronco in program history to be named the Mountain West Player of the Year, and the senior outside hitter has been even better in 2017.
Nobley set the school record for career kills against No. 10 BYU on Aug. 31 when she had 23. The previous record was 1,510, and Nobley had 1,530 after the BYU match.
Last weekend, Nobley surpassed the Mountain West career kills record in the third set against Portland State.
“We knew going into the season that Sierra was going to be good, but we thought she’d get so much attention from other teams that it would be hard for her to be this successful,” BSU head coach Shawn Garus said. “But she has continued to improve and put up even better numbers this year than in years past.”
Nobley enters the Boise State Classic with 1,626 kills, and she also owns school records for total attacking attempts (4,122), kills per set (4.52) and points per set (5.06).
Yet another school record is likely to fall Friday. Nobley, an AVCA honorable mention All-American in 2015 and 2016, needs 11 points to tie and 12 to break the career points record of 1,834.
“It’s cool to be part of a growing program,” Nobley said. “When I got here they were kind of middle-of-the conference, but I saw a lot of potential.”
2. Local graduate leads the defense
Maddi Osburn was a standout outside hitter at Vallivue High in Caldwell, but she’s now using her defensive skills to confound Boise State opponents.
The senior libero is 85 digs away from tying the school record. She had 58 digs over the weekend to bump her career total to 1,406 and move from third to second place on BSU’s career digs list.
While defensive players don’t attract as much attention as offensive powerhouses like Nobley, Garus believes Osburn’s contributions are equally important.
“Maddi is not in Sierra’s shadow,” Garus said. “They both complement each other.”
Osburn and Nobley are the two primary passers in serve receive, meaning they provide the foundation for the Broncos’ offense.
“Maddi’s a fantastic person to have next to me on the court. ... Playing defense next to her, it gives me a cushion because I am not always a fantastic defender,” Nobley said. “It gives me a lot of confidence to go hit, to go do what I’m the best at, because she has the backcourt covered for me.”
The 5-foot-7 Osburn was a dominant outside hitter at the high school level, and she says at first it was hard to let that part of her game go when she got to BSU.
Now defense has become her passion, and her fiery approach fuels the entire team.
“I know that those hitters are going up and giving it their all, because I know that feeling, too,” Osburn said. “It’s so frustrating when someone digs that ball. It’s so defeating almost when you give it your best shot and someone digs you or blocks you. That feeling is so great, just knowing that you stopped their best shot.”
3. No. 1 team to play in Boise
After posting back-to-back seasons of 20 wins or more (26-7 in 2016, 23-7 in 2015) on top of making their first NCAA Tournament appearance, the Broncos have earned the respect of top-tier opponents.
Last December, Boise State swept then-No. 20 Western Kentucky in the first round of the tournament before losing to eventual national champion Stanford in the second round.
The success has allowed the Broncos to put together a much tougher nonconference schedule.
Boise State hosted No. 10 BYU on Aug. 31, and No. 1 Minnesota will be in Boise on Friday and Saturday for the Boise State Classic. Minnesota lost in four sets to Stanford in last year’s semifinals.
Previous visits by No. 1 teams have included the Florida gymnastics team in 2007 and Iowa wrestling team in 2008.
“We want to win the Mountain West Conference, and we want to make it a regular thing that we’re striving to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Garus said. “To get there, you have to play good competition in the preseason. We went out to try and schedule the best teams we could get.”
While the Broncos lost 25-19, 26-24, 26-24 to BYU, the high level of competition is likely to pay off later in the season.
“It’s cool that the program has gotten to a point where we’re recognized by teams like that and respected,” Nobley said. “They want to come play us. They think that we’re good enough to compete with them. That’s just a really cool honor that I don’t think we’ve ever had in the past.
“We’ve sort of been under the radar, but now we’re making a name for ourselves.”
Boise State Classic schedule
- Friday: Oregon State vs. Minnesota, 10 a.m.; Minnesota vs. Boise State, 5:30 p.m.; Idaho State vs. Oregon State, 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday: Minnesota vs. Idaho State, 10 a.m.; Oregon State vs. Boise State, noon; Idaho State vs. Boise State, 7:30 p.m.