WICHITA, Kan. — Pulling off its biggest upset since 2007, the BYU women’s volleyball team handed No. 14 Tennessee its second loss of the season in a 3-1 (17-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-17) defeat of the Volunteers Saturday night.
The win gives BYU the Shocker Volleyball Classic crown and increases the Cougars’ unbeaten record to 6-0. Tennessee falls to 3-2 on the season.
"We’re excited to come out here and win the Shocker Classic,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I thought we kept a lot of pressure on Tennessee defensively, putting the ball back on them so they had to make some plays. We got them a little frazzled by being able to do that, blocking and digging them. I’m super happy for the girls. They worked hard this season. But the season is still very young. We feel we learned a lot this weekend, but we still have things to learn.”
Jessica Jardine led the charge with 13 kills and 11 digs, her second double-double of the season. Freshman Alexa Gray had 12 kills and five blocks. Nicole Warner led the team in blocks with eight, including two solo blocks.
Setter Heather Hannemann helped the team on all fronts, tallying 35 assists and 14 digs, while freshman Ciara Parker had 18 digs and Tia Withers had 14.
BYU took an early lead in the first set, going ahead 8-4. But the Volunteers steadily made their way back. Successful blocking set Tennessee on a 10-1 run that put the team ahead 21-13. Kills by Jennifer Hamson and Hannemann helped the Cougars cut down the deficit, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 25-17 Tennessee victory in the end.
Despite the early loss, the Cougars pressed forward into the second set, where they again reached a four-point lead with some good blocks. A bad set by Volunteer Kelsey Robinson gave BYU its biggest lead yet at 8-3. Tennessee chipped away at that lead with the help of Robinson’s kills, until a block by Robinson and fellow Volunteer Mercedes Vaughn tied up the match at 12-12.
The teams fought for position, with BYU holding a slight edge as both teams inched toward the coveted 25 points. Tennessee faltered momentarily, giving the Cougars three points off errors and pushing their lead to 23-19. Gray pounced on the Volunteers’ missteps, smacking down two kills to finish off the set 25-20.
BYU stayed within two points for the first part of the third set, but Robinson once again proved difficult to handle as she pushed Tennessee forward to a 10-6 lead on a kill. Jardine and Hamson kills cut the lead down to 12-10. Gray stepped up again, tying up the set 15-15 with two kills. Gray exchanged kills with Volunteer Tiffany Baker until Baker was blocked by Warner, giving the lead back to BYU at 17-16. That started a 6-1 run for the Cougars, putting another set victory in reach with a score of 23-17. BYU took the set on a Tennessee service error to take the overall lead 2-1.
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BYU didn’t stop for breath, jumping to a 5-1 lead in the fourth. Kathryn LeCheminant extended the lead to 9-3 with a kill and a block. A Baker kill helped Tennessee decrease the lead to 9-6, but BYU held onto the three-point gap until LeCheminant extended it to 18-13 on back-to-back blocks with the help of Jardine and Hamson. The blocks were part of a 7-1 Cougar run that got the lead to 21-14. Gray took the Cougars to match-point position, and a Tennessee service error gave the set and the match to BYU.
Following the match, Hamson, Parker and Warner were named to the all-tournament team, and Hamson was named MVP, her second such honor.
The Cougars return to Provo for the home opener against Utah Friday at 7 p.m. MDT. The match will be BYU’s first of the BYU Invitational, where BYU will also face Portland State and Bowling Green Saturday.
Rachel Hawks is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.