Jennifer Hamson led No. 12 BYU women's volleyball to a three-set (25-16, 25-18, 25-17) sweep against Seton Hall in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday at Arizona.
"I'm just really excited for these kids," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "They did exactly what was asked of them coming into this match. They were very well prepared. Hats off to Seton Hall for an outstanding season. They've got a great group of kids over there that can battle. We had some players who came in and did their things. I liked the team effort. We were good at what we've been good at all this year."
Hamson led the Cougars with 10 kills to go along with six blocks and eight digs. Ciara Parker contributed a team-high 18 digs while Camry Godfrey Willardson added 34 assists. Whitney Young had a team-high seven blocks in the win. Alexa Gray also had double-digit kills with 10.
BYU (26-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference) got things started in the first set against Seton Hall (28-8, 15-3 Big East) with a Gray kill. Four-straight blocks from Young (with help in three from Hamson) increased BYU's lead to six at 7-1, forcing a Pirate timeout. The Cougars were up by as many as nine at 12-3 before Seton Hall went on a 7-1 run to bring it within three at 13-10. BYU maintained its lead, however, going on a 5-1 run of its own to extend its lead back to seven at 18-11. The two teams traded points to end the set with the Cougars ultimately prevailing, 25-16.
A pair of Gray kills helped BYU take a 6-2 advantage to start the second set. The Pirates never gave up, following with a 5-1 rally to tie the score at 7-7. Scores were traded back and forth from that point until a Young kill gave the Cougars a four-point edge at 15-11. A Parker service ace kept BYU ahead at 19-14, forcing Seton Hall to use its first timeout of the set. The Cougars kept things going to finish the set, winning 25-18 on another Gray kill.
Young contributed a pair of kills to lead her team to a 3-1 start in the third set. BYU maintained its lead at 9-4 following an Amy Boswell and Hamson block. The Cougars found themselves up by as many as eight at 14-6 following a Seton Hall service error, but the Pirates then went on a 4-1 run to bring them back within six at 14-8. The teams traded points from then until Seton Hall scored five straight to bring it within four at 17-13, forcing Olmstead to call his first timeout of the match. BYU found its offense following the break, eventually coming out with the set and match, 25-17, following a Cosy Burnett and Boswell block.
The win marks the third time in as many seasons that the Cougars have advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament. BYU has advanced to the regional semifinals in each of the past two seasons.
The Cougars return to McKale Memorial Center on Friday at 5:30 p.m. MST, to face the winner of 11th seed Arizona and Yale. Links to live stats and a video stream can be found on the BYU women's volleyball schedule page.
Royce Hinton is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.