Hamson, Gray lead Cougars over Longhorns to advance to NCAA finals
OKLAHOMA CITY- Jennifer Hamson and Alexa Gray combined for 41 kills to lead the No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball team over No. 2-seed Texas in a four-set thriller (25-23, 25-16, 17-25, 26-24) to advance to the NCAA tournament national finals on Thursday night.
"Hats off to Texas for an outstanding season, for being in the position to play for a national title," head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "I'm just enjoying every minute with these kids. There's a few of them that don't want this season to end. I'll keep rolling with them as long as they want to keep rolling. We were down a few points and came back - there was some negative there - but right now that's not my concern. I'm honored to be a part of these kids' success."
Hamson finished the night with 22 kills, 10 digs and seven blocks with Gray adding 19 kills on a .421 clip and a solo block. Tambre Nobles contributed 11 kills, 12 digs and four blocks on the night while Amy Boswell finished with a game-high eight blocks to go along with three kills.
BYU finished with a .209 hitting clip, while Texas finished with a .162 clip. There were a total of 46 ties and 21 lead changes in the four sets.
Texas got off to a quick 2-0 start in the first set until Young’s kill tied it back at two apiece. The Cougars and Longhorns went into a back-and-forth battle until a 4-1 run by Texas gave it a 15-12 lead. BYU answered back with a 3-0 run that included kills by Nobles and Hamson and a block by Boswell and Nobles to tie it back at 15-15. Gray went on a solo 3-0 run with two kills and a solo block to give BYU a 19-18 lead. The two teams continued to trade points until the game was tied at 22 when Hamson scored the last three BYU points to take the set 25-23.
Gray started off the second set with a kill with Hamson contributing two kills of her own to give BYU a 3-1 start. Texas took a quick 7-6 lead until Gray added four kills for BYU to retake a 10-9 lead. Consecutive blocks by Nobles and Young capped a 5-0 BYU run to extend its lead 14-9. The Cougars maintained their lead with a string of blocks and kills with Gray’s kill giving BYU set point to take it 25-16.
Despite a 4-2 start by BYU, the Longhorns reeled off a 4-0 run to take a 7-5 lead to start the third set. Tia Withers Welling made her second ace of the set to give the Cougars a 12-11 lead. After Nobles tied the game back at 17 apiece, Texas took the third set 25-17 after scoring the last eight points of the set.
Following a 4-2 start by BYU, the Cougars and Longhorns traded points with Nobles’ roll shot and Texas' error giving the Cougars a three-point lead at 15-12. Hamson’s kill ended a 4-0 Texas run and was followed by BYU’s defense with three consecutive blocks, including a solo block by Boswell, to maintain a 19-16 lead. Texas reeled off a 6-1 run to retake a 22-20 lead, but was answered by Hamson’s kill and a block by Hamson and Young to tie it at 22 apiece. The game was tied back at 24 apiece, but was ended on consecutive kills by Hamson to take the fourth set 26-24.
The Cougars advance to the NCAA tournament national finals to face No. 5-seed Penn State on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CST at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 with links to live stats and a video feed found on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.