BYU volleyball: Women ready for second season in WCC

By Rachel Hawks

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 3:56 p.m. MDT

PROVO — After recording a winning season in BYU’s inaugural year in the West Coast Conference, the Cougar women’s volleyball team looks to improve on that success in 2012.

“The start of every new season is an exciting time,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We are looking forward to competing in our second season in the WCC. It’s a strong conference top to bottom. This is a wonderful opportunity for athletes both old and new, as is the case with each season. As a coaching staff we love the kids we have in the gym and are enjoying the practice dynamics. We are a week away from our first official competition and hope it will be another great season for the returners and a new adventure for the new kids. We are looking forward to each new step.”

Last season BYU finished 21-9 and 10-6 in WCC play. The conference record was good for a third-place finish in league, and the Cougars just missed an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Returning are starters Jennifer Hamson, Heather Hannemann, Kathryn LeCheminant, Nicole Warner and Tia Withers. The Cougars have a supporting crew of four juniors, Kimberli Boswell, Jessica Jardine, Coriann Clark Thompson and Taeja Toleafoa.

Welcomed to BYU’s ranks are freshmen Amy Boswell (sister of Kimberli), Alexa Gray, Ciara Parker, Samantha Staker andWhitney Young.

Breakdown by Position

Outside hitter

Despite losing the talent of two senior outside hitters from 2011, the Cougars will field an outside hitter lineup of experienced athletes. Jardine and sophomore Katie Vaughn both saw playing time and started in four matches during 2011. Jardine played in 11 matches, coming up with a career-high 10 kills against UC Santa Barbara. Vaughn saw action in 23 matches, securing a career-high 14 kills against Idaho early in the season.

Added to the lineup are Kimberly Dahl, who redshirted last season, and newcomers Gray and Young. The Cougars also have sophomore Hannah Robison and junior Toleafoa ready to step up as needed.

Setter

Senior Hannemann took control at the setter position in 2011, finding success in her first year as the starter. Hannemann collected 1,235 assists last season to help the Cougars to their best final record in four years.

Newcomer Staker will train under Hannemann as the only other setter on the team. Staker just ended her high school career helping her team to a third-place finish in the Utah 5A tournament.

Opposite hitter

A 6-foot-7 Jennifer Hamson plays at opposite hitter, proving a hard player to defend as she led the team and the WCC in kills last season. Hamson totaled 422 kills (3.94 per set) on .301 hitting. The junior, who is the tallest women’s volleyball player in the league, set a career high of 21 kills against Loyola Marymount at the beginning of 2011 conference play. She also had 255 digs (2.38 per set), which helped her to 11 double-doubles on the season.

Hamson was awarded All-America honorable mention and All-Pacific Region accolades for her performance in 2011. She was also named all-conference and academic all-conference. Hamson ranked No. 22 in the nation for points scored per set to finish the year.

Backing up Hamson are the Boswell sisters, who also play middle blocker.

Middle blocker

Warner and LeCheminant lead the BYU middle blockers after having great success during 2011. The duo helped BYU to a No. 1 NCAA ranking for blocks per set during the season, ending at No. 6 nationally. Warner was individually ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation for blocks per set and also ended at No. 6 with 162 total (1.51 per set).

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