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MALIBU, Calif. — Four Cougars in double figures secured a share of the conference title Thursday night as the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team took down Pepperdine 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21) on the road.
"It was a gutsy win for these girls," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "I'm very, very proud of how they stayed composed on the road and how they competed on the road against a quality team like Pepperdine."
BYU increased its record to 25-2 and 13-2 in the West Coast Conference, while Pepperdine dropped to 18-11 and 7-8 in conference.
If the Cougars defeat San Diego on Saturday, they will become the outright league champions. A loss would tie BYU and San Diego for first in the conference.
Jennifer Hamson led the Cougars with 23 kills while Kathryn LeCheminant obliterated her previous career high for kills, tallying a career-best 15 kills on .737 hitting. LeCheminant also led in blocks with six, including two solo blocks. Freshmen outside hitters Kimberly Dahl and Alexa Gray each totaled 10 kills on the night.
Three Cougars had double figures in digs, with setter Heather Hannemann leading with 13 digs and contributing 51 assists for her ninth double-double of the season. Libero Tia Withers had 12 digs and Jessica Jardine totaled 10.
BYU led in blocks 8-1 and in kills 66-62.
Both teams struggled to escape a series of 11 ties in the beginning of the first set. BYU came out on top, scoring three points in a row to take a 15-12 lead. Pepperdine fought back, but couldn’t tie it up at 15-14. From there the Cougars launched a 10-1 run to finish off the set, helped out by two kills and two blocks from LeCheminant. BYU ended the first set with a 25-15 victory.
Pepperdine came out swinging in the second set, quickly gaining control of the lead with a kill by Kelley Larson and a Cougar attack error. Down 6-4, the Cougars couldn’t respond with enough force to steal the lead. At one point in the set behind 14-9, BYU was able to battle back to a 24-23 deficit, holding off a Pepperdine set victory with the help of a Hannemann-LeCheminant block. Wave Taylor Racich prevented another tie on a kill, tying up the match with a 25-23 set victory for the Waves.
"After the second set, I believed our best was still ahead of us," Olmstead said. "I just told the girls to continue to move forward. It's another set and you've got to compete. You've got to win it, or else we'll be playing more sets. I told them to do their best to stay composed. I didn't feel that they'd played their best in the second set, so I just told them that I felt that was ahead of us."
The Cougars fell behind again in the third set, going down 12-8. A LeCheminant kill put the Cougars back in play, tying up the set 16-16. The 6-2 middle blocker pushed BYU ahead 21-20 on another kill for the Cougars’ first lead of the set. Two more points put BYU in position for a victory with a 24-21 score, setting up LeCheminant to take the 25-22 win on a kill.
BYU took the early lead in the final set, but Jazmine Orozco stole it on a kill to put Pepperdine ahead 9-8. The Waves kept control until an attack error tied the score up at 17-17, giving Gray the chance to take back the lead for BYU on a kill. The Cougars jumped further ahead on a 5-0 run. Despite Orozco’s attempts to halt BYU’s progression, the Cougars cruised to a 25-21 win in the fourth set.
BYU takes on San Diego Saturday in a final battle for the conference crown. The match begins at 1 p.m. PST on the Toreros’ home court.
Cougars, Toreros face off for WCC title
PROVO, Utah—In the last week of conference play, the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team hits the road to engage No. 18 San Diego in the final battle for the league title Saturday after facing Pepperdine Thursday.
A BYU victory in one of this week’s two matches would give the Cougars at least a share of the West Coast Conference title and victories in both would give BYU the outright win. With all their conference matches completed except the match against BYU, the Toreros need the Saturday victory if they don’t want to end up in second place in the WCC for the second year in a row.
The Thursday match against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., begins at 7 p.m. PST and the Saturday match in San Diego begins at 1 p.m. PST.
BYU is 24-2 on the season and 12-2 in conference. With a .923 win-loss record going into the last three matches of the season, the Cougars are enjoying their best winning percentage since 1986, when BYU went 40-3 with a win-loss percentage of .930 and a No. 4 national finish.
Three Cougars are ranked in four NCAA statistics categories, with senior middle blocker Nicole Warner leading the pack at No. 1 for blocks per set (1.77) and No. 6 for hitting percentage (.434). Senior setter Heather Hannemann comes in at No. 26 for assists per set (11.24) and junior opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson is No. 28 for points per set (4.87).
Hamson leads the Cougars with 3.91 kills per set, helped out by freshman outside hitter Alexa Gray’s 3.45 kills per set. Hamson reached 1,000 career kills in the Cougars’ last victory. Hamson only needs 182 more kills to make it into the top 10 in BYU history for career kills.
Also in BYU’s record books, Warner sits at No. 4 in block assists with 588 and No. 4 in total blocks with 614. Warner needs seven more block assists to pass Amy Steele Gant to become No. 3 in that category and 81 more total blocks to pass Gant in that category.
In her second year as a starter, Heather Hannemann is No. 9 in BYU history for assists with 2,247 and needs 36 more to pass Amy Schlauder to become No. 8.
After last week’s sweep of Santa Clara, BYU is still at No. 1 in Division I for hitting percentage (.316). Due to only playing one match in week 12, BYU is now in second place for win-loss record (.923), tied with Stanford. Penn State jumped ahead of BYU in that category with a record of 25-2 and a winning percentage of .926. BYU is also No. 6 in blocks per set with 3.01.
The Cougars come in at No. 12 in the RPI rankings. Even with a loss this week, the Cougars should receive their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2007 at the end of the regular season.
With the Cougars’ last two conference matches on the road, BYU maintains its undefeated home record in WCC play at 8-0. The Cougars end the regular season with a match against UVU Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Looking to end a three-match losing streak—which includes losses to San Diego, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco—the Waves (18-10, 7-7 WCC) will host BYU before taking on Gonzaga. The losing streak bumped Pepperdine out of the top 25, though the Waves are still receiving votes.
At No. 36 in RPI, the Waves still have a chance of receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Jazmine Orozco leads Pepperdine with 3.79 kills per set with the help of setter Kellie Woolever’s 11.19 assists per set. Michaela Christiaansen leads in digs with a 3.63 average and Victoria Adelhelm leads in blocks with 1.18 per set.
In the teams’ last meeting, BYU swept the then-No. 14 Waves at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars lead the all-time series with Pepperdine 13-8-0.
The Toreros are 20-5 this season and 12-3 in conference. At No. 2 in conference standings, their last chance to win a share of the conference title is Saturday against BYU. San Diego faces San Diego State in a non-conference, cross-town showdown Wednesday before meeting with the Cougars.
At No. 24 in RPI, San Diego has a good chance of making it into the NCAA Tournament even if the team loses either of its matches this week.
Three Toreros take care of offense for San Diego. Chloe Ferrari leads with 2.72 kills per set, followed by Katie Hoekman and Alaysia Brown with 2.64 apiece. Hoekman also leads in blocks with 1.11 per set. Rachel Alvey runs the floor with 9.86 assists per set while Kandiss Anderson leads in digs with a 3.74 average.
The Cougars and the Toreros last met on Halloween, when BYU took down San Diego 3-1 on ESPNU. Since then, BYU has been in sole possession of the No. 1 spot in conference standings. San Diego leads the overall series 3-2.
How to follow
Live video streaming and live stats for the San Diego match are available on San Diego’s Game Central page.
Follow the team’s Twitter feed @BYUwvolleyball for live updates.