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BOISE — At the beginning of the season, the Boise State volleyball team had dreams of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

A fourth-place finish in the Mountain West standings ended those dreams, but the Broncos are still hoping to gain valuable tournament experience in the postseason, which they hope they can translate into an NCAA run in future years.

Boise State (18-11) will begin play in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship today, where they will take on Weber State (24-8) at 4 p.m. in Laramie, Wyoming. With a young group of players like Mountain West Freshman of the Year Lauren Ohlinger, as well as All-Mountain West selection Jessica Donahue and honorable mention Danielle Boss, both sophomores, this tournament will provide the Broncos with a chance to continue to develop their program.

“The young kids on our team getting that opportunity is what we want,” said Boise State coach Shawn Garus. “We didn’t make the tournament last year, so the sophomore class that’s really talented now gets this postseason opportunity, along with the freshmen. We want the program to be playing in the postseason regularly and this is the opportunity in front of us right now, so we’re going to take advantage of it.”

The tournament marks the third time in the last four years the Broncos have made the postseason, as they got an invite to the NIVC in 2017 and made the NCAA Tournament in 2016. Next season, the Mountain West will begin a postseason conference tournament for the first time.

Against Weber State, the Broncos will face a team that missed out on the NCAA Tournament by just one set. The Wildcats took Northern Colorado into five sets in the Big Sky Tournament Championship on Saturday before the Bears took the deciding set 15-13.

“They were right there with Northern Colorado, who won that bid,” said Garus. “They’re different in that they’ve got five seniors who had a good role on their team where we’ve only got one senior who’s been playing all year. We’re a younger team, but hopefully our freshmen are done being freshmen and now they’re more experienced and ready for this opportunity.”

The winner of today’s match moves on to face the winner of a match between Wyoming and Northwestern State on Friday.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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