Freshmen lead No. 11 spikers to win vs. Dons
SAN FRANCISCO—A combined 37 kills from Cougar freshmen pushed the No. 11 BYU women’s volleyball team to a 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19) victory against San Francisco Thursday on the Dons’ home court.
The win preserved BYU’s perfect 15-0 season record (3-0 WCC). San Francisco falls to 10-6 and 1-2 in conference.
“I was really impressed with the girls’ fight tonight,” head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We came back from a 23-16 deficit in set two and almost took that set. I was impressed with their being able to rebound after losing set two. “
Freshman outside hitter Alexa Gray had 19 kills to lead the Cougars on .417 hitting. Redshirt freshman Kimberly Dahl recorded 18 kills against the Dons, destroying her previous career high of five kills. Dahl also had three aces, another career high, and three digs. Libero Ciara Parker, also a freshman, had 25 digs, her second-best count of the season.
“Our outsides were phenomenal tonight, and they took some big swings at crucial times throughout the entire match that really helped us,” Olmstead said. “Ciara’s digging turned the tide for us at some crucial points and I thought we served pretty tough.”
BYU came up strong on the block, with Jennifer Hamson setting a career high with nine blocks and Nicole Warner tying her season high, also with nine blocks. Hamson was just shy of a triple-double with 10 digs and nine kills. Heather Hannemann helped out with 55 assists.
BYU out-blocked the Dons 13-6 and recorded 61 kills to San Francisco’s 45.
BYU took an easy lead early in the first set. Solid attacking kept the Cougars at least two points ahead until Hamson and Kathryn LeCheminant teamed up to block Ester De Vries, increasing the lead to 13-9. San Francisco followed two Gray kills with an attack error before the freshman outside hitter took yet another kill, pushing the lead to 20-13. Dahl finished off the set for the Cougars with two kills, taking the set 25-17.
San Francisco came back with full force in the second set, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. BYU tried to get back in the game, but wasn’t able to get closer than two points away through most of the set. As the Dons inched closer to the coveted 25 points, the Cougars tried to overcome an eight-point lead with a 9-1 run. With San Francisco ahead 24-22, Dahl threw down a kill to bring the Cougars within one point, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a 25-23 San Francisco win.
The lost set was BYU’s first since Sept. 1, ending an eight-match run of sweeping opponents.
Back on their game, the Cougars took a 6-1 run after the break. A Hamson kill increased that lead to 8-2 before the Dons took a timeout to regroup. The timeout didn’t cool the Cougars down as BYU snatched a 12-point lead on another of Gray’s kills. Down 18-4, San Francisco tried to stage a comeback on a 10-1 run, but BYU’s middle blockers dug in their heels, stopping the scoring streak with kills from LeCheminant and Warner. Parker aced a serve, getting BYU ready for a set point which LeCheminant took on a kill.
Neck-and-neck in the fourth set, the Cougars lost their early lead to San Francisco on a kill by Jocelyn Levig. The Dons kept the lead until BYU tied up the set 12-12. LeCheminant and Hamson blocked Levig to take back the lead. A 5-1 Cougar run put BYU ahead 16-13, a lead they maintained the rest of the set. San Francisco’s hopes of preventing an end to the match were crushed by two kills from Dahl separated by Hamson’s ace which finished off the set 25-19.
The Cougars now travel to Moraga, Calif., to meet Saint Mary’s Saturday at 1 p.m. PDT.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.