PROVO — Bouncing back from a losing season in 2010, the BYU women’s volleyball team put up a 21-9 record in 2011 for its most successful season since 2007. The Cougars tied for third place in their inaugural season in the West Coast Conference, exceeding the No. 6 conference preseason ranking.
A new coaching staff marked a fresh start for a team that went 14-16, 15-14 and 14-12 the past three seasons.
“Our overall look at 2011 is it was a huge success for BYU and the women’s volleyball program,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We had some wonderful wins on the road and at home.”
After opening the season with tough competition in the BYU Invitational, which included an Illinois team who ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation during the season, the Cougars went on a nine-match winning streak. The team took down in-state rivals Weber State, Utah and Utah State and recorded a sweep against Kansas State during the run, which ended in a loss to Cal State Fullerton on Sept. 16.
BYU started off conference play with a strong sweep of Saint Mary’s and a 3-2 nail-biter against Loyola Marymount on the Lions’ home court. The Cougars’ first conference loss came against San Diego, ranked No. 18 at the time. The Oct. 1 loss opened a tough month for BYU, who played nationally ranked Pepperdine and San Diego each twice during October.
The Cougars went 3-2 in November, a rocky end to the successful season with their first back-to-back losses to Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga. With great effort from the team’s three seniors, BYU ended on a high note with a 3-0 victory over Portland on Senior Day.
“Overall we did a great job in conference against great competition,” said Olmstead, who completed his first season as a head coach in November. “Conference play reiterated to us how great the WCC is as a volleyball conference. It was exciting to play against a handful of wonderful universities and play that level of volleyball.”
Sophomore opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson received All-America honorable mention and All-Pacific region honors for her 2011 performance. Five Cougars picked up postseason all-conference accolades, with Hamson and Christie Carpenter earning First Team All-WCC. Hamson and Nicole Warner picked up Academic All-WCC honors and Kendalyn Hartsock received an Academic All-WCC honorable mention. Carpenter was also named to the Preseason All-WCC team.
Junior middle blocker Warner ended the season at the top of the WCC in blocking with 1.51 per set. The number also gave her a No. 6 national ranking to finish 2011, though she ranked as high as No. 1 during preconference play.
“Nicole is a tremendous asset to the team as a middle blocker,” Olmstead said. “She sets the stage every day for practice and matches. We love her work ethic and look for her to contribute to our team even more offensively next season, as much as she does defensively.”
Hamson also found success in her breakout season, topping the league with 3.94 kills per set. Hamson set career highs against Illinois, Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount. The sophomore, from Lindon, Utah, led the team with 422 total kills. Hamson finished the season ranked No. 22 in the nation for points per set with 4.88.
Hamson reached double figures in kills 26 times in 2011 and recorded 11 double-doubles.
“(Hamson’s) play and her ability essentially speak for themselves,” Olmstead said. “A lot of people don’t understand how impressive her time management is, juggling athletics — both volleyball and basketball — and academics. She’ll be a dominant volleyball player for years to come.”
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