PROVO — As good as the BYU women’s volleyball team was in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it may have been even better in the second round. The result was a straight-set win over a gritty Oklahoma team, 25-17, 25-21, 25-18, Saturday inside the Smith Fieldhouse.
Players and coaches assessed Oklahoma as a much tougher test than their first-round opponent (New Mexico State), and felt they stepped up their overall execution to achieve a similar straight-set result.
“I think we’re getting better and better every day in our practices and in our games,” said senior setter Heather Hannemann. “We’re definitely peaking at the right time I think.”
Hannemann recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 34 assists and 14 digs. Junior Jennifer Hamson again led the way with a game-high 17 kills and five blocks. Freshmen Alexa Gray and Kimberly Dahl added eight kills apiece.
The Cougars comfortably won the first set before finding themselves down 9-6 in the second. Following a team timeout the Cougars figured some things out and went on a 9-1 run, which all but did the Sooners in.
“We wanted to slow things down and talk to our girls and I don’t know what changed, but the girls were obviously doing the work,” said coach Shawn Olmstead about the timeout and ensuing run. “For them to turn it up there at that point and not wait it was these kids — it’s them and the job they did on defense.”
BYU’s defensive effort was stellar throughout and helped key a 10-3 decisive run in the third and final set. Hamson and senior middle blocker Nicole Warner took center stage and blocked three straight attempts by the Sooners and ultimately provided four and five blocks, respectively, in the set. Warner finished the game with a team-high eight blocks.
“Nicole is lightning quick and reads the game so well and Jen Hamson is over and across the net so well and physical, so they did take it over,” Olmstead said. “They (the Sooners) were running exactly what we thought they would be running so it allowed us to get our blockers up there and be a little early and be waiting.”
With the win the Cougars finish out an undefeated season at home while advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
“There’s no place like the Smith Fieldhouse anywhere in the country,” Hannemann said. “This is where we work every day — where we sweat and we cry — so this is really our home and we’re excited to keep going. We’re not satisfied yet. We want to keep on going and see how far we can get. I think we can go as far as we want.”
The Cougars will match up against No. 5 seed Oregon in the Sweet 16 on Dec. 7.
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