Boise State

Boise State volleyball headed to the Big Dance, but Air Force awaits Tuesday night

Boise State’s Sierra Nobley goes up for a hit during the Broncos’ match against Colorado State on Nov. 16 at Bronco Gym.
Boise State’s Sierra Nobley goes up for a hit during the Broncos’ match against Colorado State on Nov. 16 at Bronco Gym. Boise State University

The Boise State volleyball team plays its final regular-season match Tuesday night against Air Force.

It’s the Broncos’ last home match of the season — but their first as conference champions.

Boise State (24-6, 15-2) locked down a share of the Mountain West championship with two wins last week and secured the program’s first invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos can clinch the outright league title by knocking off the last-place Falcons (10-20, 1-16) at 7:30 p.m. at Bronco Gym.

Boise State is 10-2 all-time against Air Force and 4-0 at home.

The Broncos clinched their NCAA berth with wins against Colorado State and Wyoming, and neither was an easy feat. Colorado State has been the conference’s representative to the NCAAs every year since the Broncos joined the Mountain West five seasons ago. Wyoming was previously 11-1 at home before losing to the Broncos.

Boise State has won 13 straight matches (10th longest in the nation), including 11 by sweep.

The strategy moving forward may not be glamorous, but Boise State coach Shawn Garus says it’s important for his players to keep doing what they’re doing.

“I feel like the girls are training really hard every day, and it’s putting them in a position to win every match,” Garus said. “(I’m) just really proud of the overall team effort that we’re getting.”

Middle blocker Maddy O’Donnell says it’s important to take care of all details. As the only senior on the team, who will be honored before Tuesday’s match, she points to a chemistry that makes this year’s team stand out.

“This year, just the dynamic of the girls, we’ve all been starters for several years now and it’s just us coming together,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve all wanted the same exact thing. We’ve all just been working every single day.”

The team was oh-so-close last season, finishing second to Colorado State in the Mountain West, which doesn’t sponsor a postseason tournament. Junior libero Maddi Osburn, a Vallivue High graduate who leads the league in digs per set at 4.9, remembers it clearly.

“I think last year we were so close,” Osburn said. “We all wanted it so bad.”

This year, the invitation, the date, and the assurance of an NCAA invite is a reality.

And so is team confidence.

“We’re tough to beat right now,” Garus said. “Many of the same players are back performing at the same high level, and I think we could keep that going in the future.”

BSU will learn its NCAA opponent and destination during Sunday’s selection show (7 p.m., ESPNU). The 64-team tournament includes 32 automatic qualifiers, 32 at-large teams and 16 campus sites hosting first- and second-round matches.

First-round matches are Dec. 1 and 2, depending on location.