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BYU volleyball: No. 16 BYU starts league play vs. No. 14 Pepperdine

By Rachel Hawks

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18 2012 12:17 p.m. MDT

PROVO, Utah — The No. 16 BYU women’s volleyball team welcomes its first two conference opponents of the season to Elaine Michaelis Court, starting with No. 14 Pepperdine Thursday and Gonzaga Saturday.

Both matches will air on BYUtv, with the Pepperdine match beginning at 7 p.m. and the Gonzaga match at 1 p.m. on their respective days.

BYU, now 12-0 on the season in its best start since 2005, is coming off four-straight tournament wins.

The Cougars are led by opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson, a three-time tournament MVP this season. Hamson is No. 20 in NCAA Division I volleyball for points per set with 4.99. She leads the team in kills with 4.10 per set and 164 on the season.

Senior blocker Nicole Warner leads the team in blocks per set with 1.50, good to tie for 11th place in the NCAA stat rankings. Warner is aided by junior middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant with .95 blocks per set. LeCheminant is also the most accurate hitter on the team, hitting .438 for No. 14 in Division I stats.

Setter Heather Hannemann runs the offense for the Cougars, with 11.75 assists per set that put her at No. 12 in the stat rankings. She passed former Cougar Carla Gee’s career assists record over the weekend to become No. 9 in BYU history with 1,705 assists. Hannemann needs 577 more kills to become No. 8 in BYU history for total assists.

The Cougars are one of only eight undefeated Division I volleyball teams this season. Only one of those teams has a better record (13-0), while four have the same record as BYU. The team is also in the top 20 in three other statistics categories. The Cougars rank No. 3 in hitting percentage, hitting .330. In kills per set, BYU ranks No. 7 with 14.78. The team is No. 18 for assists per set with 13.43.

The last time a ranked BYU team faced a ranked opponent in the Smith Fieldhouse was in 2008, when No. 24 BYU lost to No. 15 Colorado State.

Pepperdine jumped BYU in the poll this week after knocking off then-No. 11 Florida State and then-No. 21 Ohio State in Houston. The team also played against No. 2 UCLA. The waves are 9-3 on the season.

WCC player of the week Jazmine Orozco leads the Waves with 3.67 kills per set. She is backed up by Kellie Woolever, who has 11.02 assists per set. The Waves count on Victoria Adelhelm at the net with her 1.20 blocks per set and Michaela Christiaansen leads the back row with a 3.72 digs average. Adelhelm is No. 17 in the stat rankings for hitting percentage at .421.

Pepperdine is No. 9 in NCAA stats for assists per set, averaging 13.73 and is No. 10 for kills per set with 14.70.

BYU leads the series with Pepperdine 12-8-0. In the last meeting, Pepperdine defeated the Cougars 3-1 in Provo. Pepperdine finished the 2011 season No. 1 in the WCC and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Waves were picked to finish third in the WCC Preseason Poll.

Gonzaga is 8-5 on the season, coming off of a 4-1 weekend.

Savannah Blinn leads the Bulldogs with 3.79 kills per set and 29 total service aces. On the back row, Kristina Lavrisha leads with 4.09 digs per set. Meredith Crenshaw leads the team with a 1.05 blocks average.

BYU leads the series with Gonzaga 5-1-0 after losing to Gonzaga in the team’s last meeting. Gonzaga defeated BYU 3-1 in Provo in 2011. Gonzaga finished last season tied for No. 8 in conference and was picked to finish No. 9 this season.

Both matches will be broadcast live by BYUtv and will also be streamed live on the BYUtv Sports website. The event will be simulcast on BYU Radio, available at Sirius XM 143 or on the BYU Radio website.

Tickets are available through the Marriot Center Ticket Office, which can be reached by calling 800-322-BYU1(2981) or 801-422-2981 (local), or at the Smith Fieldhouse Ticket Office starting one hour before the match. For more information on tickets, visit the ticket page.

Rachel Hawks is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.

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