BYU’s Koerber, Bower, Olmstead headline WCC volleyball awards
SAN MATEO, Calif. – West Coast Conference coaches voted graduate opposite hitter Kenzie Koerber the WCC Player of the Year and junior setter Whitney Bower as WCC Setter of the Year. Head coach Heather Olmstead was named the league’s Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her coaching career.
Bower and Koerber were two of five Cougars named to the All-WCC First Team, joining senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon, graduate middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and junior middle blocker Heather Gneiting.
Sophomore outside hitter Erin Livingston received All-WCC Second Team honors and sophomore libero Madi Allen collected All-WCC honorable mention.
The Cougars have now collected seven Player of the Year honors since 2012, with this marking the fourth consecutive year a BYU player has come away with the recognition (Roni Jones-Perry, 2018; McKenna Miller, 2019; Whitney Bower, 2020/21).
Koerber dominated conference accolades throughout the season, receiving four WCC Player of the Week honors. She averaged a .365 hitting percentage on her 334 kills. This contributed to BYU sitting at No. 5 in the NCAA for kills per set (14.38). During conference play, Koerber collected seven double-doubles and averaged 3.53 kills and 2.43 digs per set.
This is Bower’s second consecutive season receiving the setter of the year honor. She led one of the most efficient offenses in the country as BYU ranked No. 2 nationally for hitting percentage (.339). For 11 straight matches, her assists allowed the Cougars to hold a .300 clip or higher. This stands as the longest streak, on record, in program history. For the season, Bower put up 12 double-doubles and tallied 990 assists and 277 digs.
Securing her fourth WCC Coach of the Year honor, Olmstead led BYU to its sixth conference title since taking over as head coach in 2015. The Cougars finished the regular season going 28-1 overall and 18-0 in WCC play. This is the first undefeated conference record for BYU since 1993. With this success, the Cougars secured a No. 11 seed in the team’s tenth straight NCAA Tournament berth. Under Olmstead, BYU has advanced to five Sweet 16s and the 2018 Final Four.
Often the focal point of the BYU attack, Ballard-Nixon ranked No. 2 among the Cougars in kills per set (2.63) and points per set (3.21) during conference play. This is Ballard-Nixon’s second consecutive season securing the All-WCC honor. In her final season at BYU, she accumulated 221 kills, 58 digs, 33 blocks and 30 aces in 84 sets.
Eschenberg proved dominant both offensively and defensively when on the court for BYU. A three-time All-WCC First Team selection, Eschenberg ranked No. 9 in the NCAA for hitting percentage, holding an average clip of .424. The Senior CLASS award finalist led BYU defensively in the regular season, racking up 16 solo blocks and 104 block assists this season.
In her first season back at BYU after an 18-month mission, Gneiting made her third appearance on the All-WCC First Team, after tallying 212 kills and putting up BYU’s highest season clip, a 4.64. This hitting percentage ranks Gneiting at No. 3 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the WCC. The junior also added 12 solo blocks, 78 assisted blocks and 62 digs to her conference-play stat line.
Last season, Livingston collected All-WCC honorable mention and was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. To earn her spot on the All-WCC Second Team, she collected 205 kills this season, BYU’s fourth-highest kill count. Defensively, she racked up a solo block and 28 block assists.
Allen collected All-WCC honorable mention after her contributions during 88 sets of play. She accumulated 111 assists, 276 digs and 29 service aces. In all three categories, she ranked No. 2 among the Cougars.
Up next, the Cougars are preparing for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Receiving the No. 11 seed, BYU will host the first and second rounds in the Smith Fieldhouse. Starting Friday, Dec. 3, BYU will take on Boise State at 7 p.m. MST.