Cougars Get First Win of Season
PROVO, Utah - In the opening match of the Saturday portion of the BYU Nike Invitational, the BYU women’s volleyball team defeated the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 3-1 (18-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-9) at the Smith Fieldhouse.
With the victory, BYU picks up the first win of the season (1-1) and the first of new head coach Shawn Olmstead’s career. The Cougars hit .254 for the match and got better and better from start to finish, going from a .062 hitting percentage in the first set to close out the fourth on .417 hitting.
"Most importantly I'm excited and happy for the kids," head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Hopefully this win builds some confidence and we keep rolling as we play against Saint Mary's tonight."
Sophomores Jennifer Hamson and Jessica Jardine each had career-high performances. The 6-foot-6 Hamson tied her mark in kills with 17 and set a new record for digs with 18. Jardine had the most kills and digs of her career as well with 10 kills and eight digs.
In an exciting opening set, BYU jumped out to an 11-7 lead at one point before the Gauchos went on a 8-0 run to take the lead at 15-11. Both teams continued to battle back and forth but Santa Barbara would go on to win 25-18.
"We came out slow and tentative," Olmstead said. "Our ball control wasn't very good so it was hard for our setter to run the offense."
Hamson led the way for the Cougars with four kills and seven digs during the first set. Despite Hamson’s efforts BYU couldn’t keep up with five kills from the Gauchos’ outside hitter Leah Sully’s and the defense of libero Chelsea Lowe with 12 digs.
In set two, the Cougars opened up strong with a 10-5 lead. Later in the set, BYU would go on a 5-0 run and stretch their lead to 22-12 before finishing off UCSB 25-14 to tie the match at 1-1. BYU improved its hitting percentage from just .062 in the first set to a .286 clip.
Set three was tight to start with the score staying within three points and the Cougars holding an 11-8 lead. Jardine served up an ace to stretch the lead to 22-15. BYU pulled ahead to win 25-17 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
During the third set BYU continued to ramp up its hitting, going for a .400 clip to dominate the set. Hamson was strong again with a hitting percentage of .750 and delivering six kills with five digs. Junior middle blocker Nicole Warner proved valuable also, contributing three kills, one dig and assisted with two blocks.
"Once we started to calm down and control some things we started making plays," Olmstead said. "It's progress and it's us getting better and better."
The fourth set belonged to the Cougars as BYU jumped out to a 16-5 lead, powered by a 9-0 run. The duo of Hamson and Jardine led the way, combining for eight kills during the run. The team never looked back as they went on to a dominating 25-9 set victory and sealed the 3-1 match win.
Saturday’s slate continues with Saint Mary’s taking on No. 8 Illinois at 12 p.m. and then Illinois playing UC Santa Barbara at 5 p.m. To finish off the BYU Nike Invitational the Cougars will play again tonight at 8 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse against Saint Mary’s in a preview of future West Coast Conference play later in the year.
St. Mary's Falls to Illinois
PROVO, Utah—On the second day of the BYU Nike Invitational, St. Mary’s fell to Illinois 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-21) at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Posting an impressive zero errors in the first set, Illinois finished the match with only nine errors to St. Mary’s 28. Illinois also had strong defensive play from its front line, with a total of 16 team blocks. St. Mary's came out strong in the second set, but Illinois was able to regroup after a timeout and win the set. The third set saw multiple lead changes, and despite the fact that the Illini only posted a hitting percentage of .179, they pulled away with the third set and match.
Colleen Ward and Michelle Bartsch led the Fighting Illini, with 12 and 10 kills respectively, while Bartsch also posted 11 digs.
Jordan Shaw’s 10 kills led the Gaels, and Samantha Tinsley added 10 digs.
Up next in the BYU Nike Invitational, UC Santa Barbara will take on Illinois at 5:00 p.m. MT.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.