BYU Volleyball

BYU volleyball set to host tournament against Utes, others

2012-09-07T01:15:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:25Z BYU volleyball set to host tournament against Utes, othersJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
September 07, 2012 1:15 am  • 

Five years is a lifetime in college sports, even in BYU women's volleyball.

But the Cougars have found new life, garnering higher expectations this year than in recent memory. And that's been rewarded with a top-25 ranking very early in the season.

The state of Kansas has been of significance to this program. Former head coach Jason Watson and his top assistant came from the Sunflower State and not long after produced an Elite Eight trip at the NCAA Tournament in 2007.

The tandem left for Arizona State right after that. Shay Goulding took over, briefly and mostly unsuccessfully, but here Kansas is playing a role again in the program's successes.

Second-year coach Shawn Olmstead, who has been with the program since 2008, took the team to the vaunted Wichita State Invitational and defeated a couple of ranked teams — Tennessee and former Mountain West Conference foe Colorado State.

BYU also ousted the home-court Shockers in the first round, winning the three matches by a combined set score of 9-4, including 3-1 against No. 14 Tennessee in the final.

The run improved the Cougars to 6-0 as they'll host their own tournament Friday and Saturday at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Portland State, Bowling Green and Utah will also participate.

Utah and BYU will face off Friday night at 7 p.m., the ranking being a little extra motivation for both sides.

"It adds another dimension, for sure," Olmstead said, knowing that Utah hasn't lost in Provo since 2007.

BYU returned four starters this year, though it's been one departure and the addition of two freshmen that have attracted a lot of attention.

Newcomers Alexa Gray as a Canadian outside hitter and libero Ciara Parker have started their college careers strong. Parker took over for Kendalyn Hartsock, who left eligibility on the table to follow her basketball-playing husband to his first pro job in Belgium.

The team is built in part around 6-foot-7 opposite Jennifer Hamson. She already has 98 kills, successful 38.6 percent of the time.

BYU went 21-9 and finished third in its first year of West Coast Conference play, in 2011. Olmstead said the team's resolve was tested in the offseason, after it was stunned to not be given an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

"We had a horrible loss at the end of last season," he said. "That hurt us," as BYU lost two of its final three matches to St. Mary's and Gonzaga by a combined score of 6-1.

The disappointment may have helped, too. It encouraged Olmstead to build the schedule stronger this year, and take BYU all around the country.

He knows BYU will see California often once league play starts. So it's already visited Houston and Kansas with a trip to Washington D.C. forthcoming right after the home meet.

WCC action begins Sept. 20 against Pepperdine. The Waves, along with San Diego, are nationally ranked.

"At the end of the season, it's about who you have beaten," Olmstead said. "We wanted to play in different regions. It'll all come together, ideally."

Ideally, Olmstead wouldn't have to contend with the ranking at this point. He prefers under the radar.

"I would like to stay in my own little area," Olmstead quipped. "But I wouldn't want to take anything away from what the girls have been doing so far. I like what we've been doing."

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