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BYU volleyball: Cougars clinch share of conference title

By Rachel Hawks

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 10:50 a.m. MST

MALIBU, Calif. — Four Cougars in double figures secured a share of the conference title Thursday night as the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team took down Pepperdine 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21) on the road.

"It was a gutsy win for these girls," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "I'm very, very proud of how they stayed composed on the road and how they competed on the road against a quality team like Pepperdine."

BYU increased its record to 25-2 and 13-2 in the West Coast Conference, while Pepperdine dropped to 18-11 and 7-8 in conference.

If the Cougars defeat San Diego on Saturday, they will become the outright league champions. A loss would tie BYU and San Diego for first in the conference.

Jennifer Hamson led the Cougars with 23 kills, while Kathryn LeCheminant obliterated her previous career high for kills, tallying a career-best 15 kills on .737 hitting. LeCheminant also led in blocks with six, including two solo blocks. Freshmen outside hitters Kimberly Dahl and Alexa Gray each totaled 10 kills on the night.

Three Cougars had double figures in digs, with setter Heather Hannemann leading with 13 digs and contributing 51 assists for her ninth double-double of the season. Libero Tia Withers had 12 digs and Jessica Jardine totaled 10.

BYU led in blocks 8-1 and in kills 66-62.

Both teams struggled to escape a series of 11 ties in the beginning of the first set. BYU came out on top, scoring three points in a row to take a 15-12 lead. Pepperdine fought back, but couldn’t tie it up at 15-14. From there the Cougars launched a 10-1 run to finish off the set, helped out by two kills and two blocks from LeCheminant. BYU ended the first set with a 25-15 victory.

Pepperdine came out swinging in the second set, quickly gaining control of the lead with a kill by Kelley Larson and a Cougar attack error. Down 6-4, the Cougars couldn’t respond with enough force to steal the lead. At one point in the set behind 14-9, BYU was able to battle back to a 24-23 deficit, holding off a Pepperdine set victory with the help of a Hannemann-LeCheminant block. Wave Taylor Racich prevented another tie on a kill, tying up the match with a 25-23 set victory for the Waves.

"After the second set, I believed our best was still ahead of us," Olmstead said. "I just told the girls to continue to move forward. It's another set and you've got to compete. You've got to win it, or else we'll be playing more sets. I told them to do their best to stay composed. I didn't feel that they'd played their best in the second set, so I just told them that I felt that was ahead of us."

The Cougars fell behind again in the third set, going down 12-8. A LeCheminant kill put the Cougars back in play, tying up the set 16-16. The 6-2 middle blocker pushed BYU ahead 21-20 on another kill for the Cougars’ first lead of the set. Two more points put BYU in position for a victory with a 24-21 score, setting up LeCheminant to take the 25-22 win on a kill.

BYU took the early lead in the final set, but Jazmine Orozco stole it on a kill to put Pepperdine ahead 9-8. The Waves kept control until an attack error tied the score up at 17-17, giving Gray the chance to take back the lead for BYU on a kill. The Cougars jumped further ahead on a 5-0 run. Despite Orozco’s attempts to halt BYU’s progression, the Cougars cruised to a 25-21 win in the fourth set.

BYU takes on San Diego on Saturday in a final battle for the conference crown. The match begins at 1 p.m. PST on the Toreros’ home court.

BYU vs. Pepperdine Box Score

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

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