BYU volleyball: Cougars, Toreros face off for WCC title

By Rachel Hawks

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 2:35 p.m. MST

PROVO, Utah — In the last week of conference play, the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team hits the road to engage No. 18 San Diego in the final battle for the league title Saturday after facing Pepperdine on Thursday.

A BYU victory in one of this week’s two matches would give the Cougars at least a share of the West Coast Conference title and victories in both would give BYU the outright win. With all their conference matches completed except the match against BYU, the Toreros need the Saturday victory if they don’t want to end up in second place in the WCC for the second year in a row.

The Thursday match against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., begins at 7 p.m. PST, and the Saturday match in San Diego begins at 1 p.m. PST.

BYU is 24-2 on the season and 12-2 in conference. With a .923 win-loss record going into the last three matches of the season, the Cougars are enjoying their best winning percentage since 1986, when BYU went 40-3 with a win-loss percentage of .930 and a No. 4 national finish.

Three Cougars are currently ranked in four NCAA statistics categories, with senior middle blocker Nicole Warner leading the pack at No. 1 for blocks per set (1.77) and No. 6 for hitting percentage (.434). Senior setter Heather Hannemann comes in at No. 26 for assists per set (11.24), and junior opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson is No. 28 for points per set (4.87).

Hamson leads the Cougars with 3.91 kills per set, helped out by freshman outside hitter Alexa Gray’s 3.45 kills per set. Hamson reached 1,000 career kills in the Cougars’ last victory. Hamson only needs 182 more kills to make it into the top 10 in BYU history for career kills.

Also in BYU’s record books, Warner sits at No. 4 in block assists with 588 and No. 4 in total blocks with 614. Warner needs seven more block assists to pass Amy Steele Gant to become No. 3 in that category and 81 more total blocks to pass Gant in that category.

In her second year as a starter, Heather Hannemann is No. 9 in BYU history for assists with 2,247 and needs 36 more to pass Amy Schlauder to become No. 8.

After last week’s sweep of Santa Clara, BYU is still at No. 1 in Division I for hitting percentage (.316). Due to only playing one match in week 12, BYU is now in second place for win-loss record (.923), tied with Stanford. Penn State jumped ahead of BYU in that category with a record of 25-2 and a winning percentage of .926. BYU is also No. 6 in blocks per set with 3.01.

The Cougars come in at No. 12 in the RPI rankings. Even with a loss this week, the Cougars should receive their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2007 at the end of the regular season.

With the Cougars’ last two conference matches on the road, BYU maintains its undefeated home record in WCC play at 8-0. The Cougars end the regular season with a match against UVU on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Pepperdine

Looking to end a three-match losing streak — which includes losses to San Diego, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco — the Waves (18-10, 7-7 WCC) will host BYU before taking on Gonzaga. The losing streak bumped Pepperdine out of the top 25, though the Waves are still receiving votes.

At No. 36 in RPI, the Waves still have a chance of receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Jazmine Orozco leads Pepperdine with 3.79 kills per set with the help of setter Kellie Woolever’s 11.19 assists per set. Michaela Christiaansen leads in digs with a 3.63 average, and Victoria Adelhelm leads in blocks with 1.18 per set.

In the teams’ last meeting, BYU swept the then-No. 14 Waves at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars lead the all-time series with Pepperdine 13-8-0.

San Diego

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