BYU women’s volleyball looks to continue its success from last season as the Cougars prepare for another tough schedule in 2014.
“We're really excited about the kids that we have,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Getting Jen (Hamson) back from her basketball season is exciting for everyone. I think we've put together a really nice schedule both home and away. It's going to give us an opportunity to test ourselves and go up against some really quality non-conference opponents. Hopefully that will prepare us for conference play when we get to that point.”
Last season BYU finished 24-7 and 15-3 in the West Coast Conference with a No. 13 final national ranking. The league record was good for second place behind conference foe San Diego. The Cougars advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the second-consecutive season before falling to USC.
Returning starters for the 2014 season include Camry Godfrey Willardson, Alexa Gray, Tambre Nobles, Ciara Parker, Hannah Robison and Whitney Young. Jennifer Hamson, a 2012 starter, also returns to the court this season after redshirting volleyball for a season to focus on basketball.
Breakdown by position
Returning to BYU’s front line is sophomore middle blocker Young, who averaged 1.53 blocks per set – ninth best in the nation. She was named WCC Freshman of the Year for her efforts following the 2013 season.
Amy Boswell and Graham will also join the cast of middles for the season. Boswell was a starter for several matches last year.
Junior All-American Gray returns for the 2014 season along with fellow starter Nobles. Gray led the team in kills last year, averaging 3.97 per set while hitting a .305 clip. Nobles led the team in double-doubles in 2013 with 18, while contributing the second-most digs on the team with 329.
Senior Robison will return for her senior season, while freshmen Camille Walker and Parady will also play outside hitter.
First-Team All-American Hamson returns for her final year of volleyball eligibility in 2014. In 2012, her last season on the court, Hamson was named the WCC Player of the Year.
Redshirt freshman Cosy Burnett will backup Hamson at the position.
BYU returns its starting setter for the 2014 season in Willardson. The junior recorded a career-best 69 assists against Oklahoma last season, fourth-most in the BYU rally-scoring era.
Backing up Willardson is freshman Wahlin, who has been practicing with the team since the beginning of the 2014 calendar year.
The Cougars return junior Parker as the team’s primary libero. She totaled 462 digs last season, including a career-high 34 in the NCAA tournament against Arizona State.
Senior Tia Withers Welling also returns to the ranks. Welling started in two matches last season and collected 325 total digs. Sophomore Makenna Santiago and freshman Achermann will also play the position.
BYU launches the 2014 season on the road with the Gold and Blue Player’s Challenge at West Virginia from Aug. 29-30. The Cougars first face host West Virginia, followed by IUPUI – a 2013 NCAA tournament competitor – and Toledo.
The Cougars then return home for the BYU Invitational from Sept. 5-6. BYU first plays Pac-12 foe Washington, a team that advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals a year ago. The following day the Cougars take on UMBC and in-state opponent Utah Valley.
Four road matches follow, with the UTEP/New Mexico State Invitational taking place from Sept. 12-13. The Cougars face off against Colorado State and UTEP on Friday, before taking on New Mexico State on the 13th. The following Tuesday, the 16th, BYU takes on Idaho State in Pocatello, Idaho. Colorado State, New Mexico State and Idaho State all made the NCAA tournament in 2013.
The annual Deseret First Duel against Utah takes place at the Smith Fieldhouse this year on Sept. 19. The Utes also made the 2013 NCAA tournament. It will be the final non-conference matchup for the Cougars.
During conference play, BYU will face nine very competitive teams. San Diego advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament with the Cougars in 2013.
League play begins at home for BYU, with matches against Gonzaga and Portland on Sept. 25 and 27, respectively. The Cougars’ conference play ends on the road with matches against Portland, Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount on Nov. 25.
All but two home matches will be televised on BYUtv this year. The remaining home matches will be broadcast on TheW.tv. The Cougars will also be televised on ESPNU on Sept. 30, when BYU travels to Pepperdine.
Royce Hinton is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company