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Jaren Wilkey/BYU
BYU's Kennedy Redding, second from right, and teammates celebrate after defeating St. Louis at the Nike Invitational on Aug, 25, 2017.
I felt playing volleyball was what I needed to do. —Kennedy Redding

PROVO — BYU freshman Kennedy Redding had to make a difficult decision before arriving in Provo, although it appears as if she made the right one. The 6-foot-4 middle blocker is flourishing after taking a redshirt year in 2016, providing solid play in the middle while helping the Cougar volleyball team to a 19-1 overall record and No. 7 national ranking.

But she could have opted to play basketball.

While playing for the Bountiful High School basketball team, Redding not only led the Braves to a state championship, but she also was named as the Deseret News' Ms. Basketball, an award designated for the top player in the state. She showed a great amount of skill and certainly could have seen success at the collegiate level, had she gone that direction.

"It was a really tough decision for me to not play basketball and just to focus on volleyball," Redding said. "I enjoy playing both sports so much and I've spent a lot of time working at both. But after considering things, I felt playing volleyball was what I needed to do."

Redding's decision to just play volleyball at BYU has been a big boon to the program. After spending her first year redshirting, she's risen to become a fixture on the Cougars' frontline, filling in at middle blocker while providing 89 block assists and 88 kills.

"Kennedy's doing a good job. She has a knack for blocking and gets over the net really well," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead. "She sees the setter and the hitter (well) and I think she's only going to get better...she's quick left to right and she sees things well."

What Redding saw throughout her first year at BYU were middle blockers Amy Boswell and Whitney Young Howard playing very effectively at the center position. Both were seniors and moved on after the 2016 season while leaving a lot of question marks in the middle.

Enter Redding, who soaked up whatever she could by practicing and learning from both Boswell and Howard.

"That was so huge and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from both of them," Redding said. "And they were so great, spending time with me in practices to help me learn and develop. So I'm super grateful to them and I definitely benefited a lot in learning from both of them."

Redding's partner in the middle is senior Cosy Burnett, who made the switch from outside hitter to help fill the gaping hole left by the graduation of both Boswell and Howard. So far it's worked out well, although both are still relatively new to playing the position at the collegiate level.

"Kennedy and I sort of came in this together wide-eyed," Burnett said. "We're both learning from each other and helping each other...honestly, Kennedy inspires me. She's so good at getting her hands over and I love her calmness and that's something I try and emulate."

With 10 matches left to play on the season, BYU appears to be in as good of shape as it's ever been, with another postseason run looking like a distinct possibility. The fans are showing up as well, packing the Smith Fieldhouse with the type of energy that other programs around the country simply can't match.

"It's so much fun and that's one of the big reasons I chose to play volleyball here," Redding said. "The girls are awesome. The coaches are so great and supportive. I've loved everything about being part of this team since being here, and I'm so grateful to just be a part of it."

The Cougars travel to take on both Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount on Thursday and Friday, respectively, before returning home to play three straight home matches starting with a date versus San Diego on Oct. 27.

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney