"We set a goal a long time ago as a team, as far back as after last year's regional, that we wanted to be the first volleyball team to get a win in the NCAA Tournament," said senior Madison Reyes. "Everything we have done and everything we have been through is for this weekend. All of the early morning lifts and runs, all of the time in the gym we want it to all to pay off. Our team is so together and playing so well I think we have a chance to have a great weekend.
The Cowgirls have been to the NCAA Tournament on four different occasions - 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2012. HSU has lost in five, four and three games in the previous three trips to the tournament.
HSU goes into the tournament riding a school-record 25-game winning streak that dates back to a September Tournament, ironically at California Lutheran.
Sabrina Bingham, who became HSU's all-time wins leader this season has posted a 143-45 in her six seasons as the Cowgirls' head coach, is optimistic about her team's chances.
"We came out here last year for the regional and we came back in September for a tough tournament," said Bingham. "Our kids won't have those big eyes you get in the NCAA Tournament. We are as talented as anyone in the field, it comes down to can you execute the game plan.
"I could not have a team do the work more than this one has. All year they have done the little things to get to this point and we hope that all pays off this weekend. We know we can win, I believe that and every player on our team believes that."
The Cowgirls have an experienced team that has been through the big matches together. Senior Madison Reyes, who was an all-region selection and the American Southwest Conference MVP, and junior Christine Sas, who was an honorable mention all-region and first-team all-ASC selection are the leaders of the team.
"It is no secret those two lead us in every way," said Bingham. "Offensively and defensively we rely on them both. They both have over 300 kills and 300 digs on the year. They are two fantastic players and they know they have to play well for our team to have success."
The pair is the first set of HSU players to have 1,000-kills and 1,000-digs in a career. Reyes has 380 kills and 355 digs on the year and 1,518 kills and 1,075 digs for her career. Sas has 323 kills and 405 digs on the season and 1,010 kills and 1210 digs for her career.
Don't be fooled to thinking they are the Cowgirls' only weapons. The frontline is an experienced bunch and Tori Martinez (247), Hannah Hornsby (202), Morgan Watts (162) and Belle Shaver (100) all have at least 100 kills. The Cowgirls hit .207 as a team and limit teams to a .125 hitting percentage.
Martinez leads the team with 123 blocks and the Cowgirls average 1.83 blocks per set. HSU also gains a big advantage on serving. HSU has 209 aces on the year with Sas (49), Watts (34) and Reyes (31) all with 30 or more.
The Cowgirls run a 6-2 system which relies on two setters. Sophomore Molli Owen has 703 assists on the year and freshman Meghan Molitor has 423.
Libero's Addison Zaya and Ashley Babineaux give the Cowgirls two proven options as well.
The Cowgirls will open the tournament on Friday against La Verne University. The Leopards are 21-5 on the year and are the fifth seed in the regional. HSU is the No. 4 seed and has the best record in the regional at 29-3.
Thousand Oaks Regional Bracket (All times CST)
2:30 - No. 2 Chapman (23-6) vs. No. 7 Pacific Lutheran (20-5)
5:00 - No. 3 Puget Sound (19-5) vs. No. 6 Colorado Coll. (23-9)
7:30 - No. 4 Hardin-Simmons (29-3) vs. No. 5 La Verne (21-5)
10 p.m. - No. 1 Cal. Lutheran (27-4) vs. No. 8 Southwestern (24-11)
Semifinals | Saturday
5:30 - Chapman/PLU Winner vs. UPS/CC winner
8:00 - CLU/SW winner vs. HSU/LVU winner
Final | Sunday
2:00 - Semifinal winners