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BYU volleyball: Cougars set for NCAA first-round action

By Rachel Hawks

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27 2012 2:52 p.m. MST

PROVO, Utah — The No. 12-seeded BYU women’s volleyball team welcomes three teams to the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday for the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Arizona State plays against Oklahoma at 5 p.m. MST and New Mexico State takes on the Cougars at 7.

BYU will also host the second round match Saturday at 7 p.m. MST.

In the neutral-site match between Arizona State and Oklahoma, the Sooners will be the home team.

BYU

The Cougars finished the regular season 26-3, tying with San Diego for West Coast Conference champions with a 13-3 league record. BYU won the tiebreaker to get the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Claiming a share of the conference crown gave BYU four individual all-conference awards, with Jennifer Hamson taking Player of the Year, head coach Shawn Olmstead receiving Coach of the Year, Alexa Gray garnering Freshman of the Year and Nicole Warner winning a share of the Defensive Player of the Year award. All three were named to the all-conference team, while setter Heather Hannemann received All-WCC Honorable Mention honors. Gray and Kimberly Dahl were named to the WCC All-Freshman team.

Hamson leads the Cougars with 4.02 kills per set, 1.80 digs per set and 1.23 blocks per set. Her average points per set, 4.98, is good for No. 22 in Division I volleyball. Hannemann averages 11.25 assists per set and is No. 26 in national stats.

On defense, Warner proves a major threat at the net with 1.75 blocks per set that is good enough for No. 3 in NCAA stats. She also helps out on offense with a .421 hitting percentage that is No. 8 in the country. Libero Tia Withers records 3.21 digs per set.

Olmstead is in his second year at the helm of the Cougars and has a 47-12 career record.

New Mexico State

New Mexico State is 22-10 on the season and 12-6 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Aggies upset Idaho in the WAC Championship match Wednesday, becoming conference champions and claiming the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament despite their No. 4 seeding in the conference tournament. They were the lowest seed to ever win the WAC Championship.

Meredith Hays is head of the Aggie offense with 3.97 kills per set and also has 2.31 digs per set. Ciara Brown helps out with 6.05 assists per set. On defense, Desiree Scott leads with a 1.22 blocks average, and Stephanie Ziegler controls the back court with 3.06 digs per set. Hays and Scott were named to the All-Western Athletic Conference First Team.

Mike Jordan is in his 15th season as head coach of New Mexico State.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is 21-10 overall and 10-6 in the Big 12 after knocking off Kansas State in the Sooners’ regular season finale Saturday. They finished fourth in their conference.

Big 12 First Team member Sallie McLaurin recorded 2.86 kills per set and 1.41 blocks per set during the regular season. Julia Doyle, who was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team, averages 9.49 assists per set to lead the Sooners. With 4.77 digs per set, Maria Fernanda leads the Oklahoma defense.

Santiago Restrepo has been head coach of the Sooners for nine seasons.

Arizona State

Arizona State ended the regular season 20-13 overall and 9-11 in Pac-12 play. In the Sun Devils’ last match, they defeated in-state rival Arizona 3-1. They finished sixth in their league.

Macey Gardner leads the Sun Devils with 4.46 kills per set and collects 2.38 digs per set. Setter Allison Palmer aids with 11.63 assists per set, and Stephanie Preach leads in the digs category with 4.74 per set.

The Sun Devils are coached by Jason Watson, who coached the Cougars from 2005-2007 before becoming head coach at Arizona State in 2008. Watson also played setter for the BYU men’s volleyball team from 1991-1994.

Ticket Info

All session tickets are on sale now at BYUtickets.com until Friday morning. Individual match tickets will go on sale Friday morning at 9 a.m. MST. For more information, visit the BYU Ticket Office website.

Live Streaming and stats

All matches will be streamed live online at NCAA.com. Live stats will be available on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.

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

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