(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – No. 3 BYU women’s volleyball finished the 2014 season with a 30-5 overall record, including its first-ever trip to the national finals of the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Shawn Olmstead finished his fourth season at the helm of the Cougars by hitting the century mark in wins, sporting an overall record of 103-25. He was named the 2014 WCC Co-Coach of the Year, All-Pacific South Region Coach of the Year and the AVCA Division I National Coach of the Year.
BYU also ended the year with three Cougars receiving All-America honors. Jennifer Hamson was named to the first team for a second season while Alexa Gray was added to the second team with Amy Boswell collecting honorable mention accolades.
The Cougars began the season winning 16 of their first 18 matches, which included 13 sweeps along the stretch. The only loses to begin the year were to nationally ranked Washington and Colorado State.
BYU won the Gold & Blue Player’s Challenge before placing second at both the BYU Invitational and the UTEP/New Mexico State Invitational. The Cougars also swept Utah in the Deseret First Duel for the fourth-straight win in the series.
BYU started 7-0 to begin West Coast Conference play before falling in five sets at San Diego for its first league loss. The only other loss in conference came at the hands of the Broncos at Santa Clara.
The Cougars finished conference play alone in first place with a 16-2 overall record, winning the league by a three-match margin.
Collecting an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament, BYU entered the competition unseeded.
The Cougars traveled to Tucson, Arizona, for the first two rounds of play. BYU swept Seton Hall before taking down No. 11 Arizona on its home court in four sets to advance.
The Cougars then traveled to Seattle for the regional semifinals and finals of the NCAA tournament. BYU again upset a pair of seeded teams in No. 6 Florida State and No. 14 Nebraska to advance to the national finals.
While in Oklahoma City, the Cougars upset No. 2 Texas to advance to the national title match against No. 5 Penn State. BYU was the first unseeded team ever to advance to the title game. The Cougars’ postseason magic wasn’t enough, however, as BYU fell to the defending champions in three sets.
Despite advancing to the national championship match, the Cougars finished the season ranked No. 3 in the final AVCA Coaches’ Poll – its highest-ever finish.
In addition to Hamson’s All-America honors, she was named to the AVCA All-Pacific South Region team and added to the All-WCC First Team. She collected a WCC Player of the Week award during conference play. Hamson was also named the NCAA Seattle Region Most Valuable Player as well as making the NCAA Oklahoma City All-Tournament team. She also received her third conference academic honor by making the Academic All-WCC team.
Hamson ended her BYU career on several Cougar rally-scoring era record lists: second in kills (1,554), third in kills per set (3.71), fifth in hitting percentage (.315), fourth in block assists (470), fourth in total blocks (494) and third in sets played (429).
To complement Gray’s All-America honors, she was named the 2014 WCC Player of the Year and added to the All-WCC First Team. She was added to the AVCA All-Pacific South Region team and collected two WCC Player of the Week awards. Gray was additionally added to both the NCAA Seattle Region and Oklahoma City All-Tournament teams.
Gray entered the 1,000 kills club this season after her 424 pushed her to 1,266 total – good for 11th on the all-time BYU list.
Boswell received All-Pacific South Region First Team honors in addition to her All-America accolades. She was added to the All-WCC Honorable Mention team as well as the Academic All-WCC team. She also took the Elite 89 award in Oklahoma City given annually to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA at the national championships.
Boswell ended the year as the No. 2 blocker in the nation, averaging 1.68 blocks per set while collecting 203 total blocks. She tied a BYU blocks per set record when she totaled 17 blocks against San Diego. She additionally set a BYU solo blocking record after collecting six against New Mexico State.
Whitney Young set two NCAA rally-scoring era records in 2014, averaging 1.89 blocks per set while collecting 229 total blocks. She was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year in addition to making the All-WCC First Team. Young also received All-Pacific South Region Honorable Mention accolades and Academic All-WCC Honorable Mention accolades.
Young tied a WCC and BYU blocks per set record against San Francisco when she collected 17 block assists.
Tia Withers Welling made the Academic All-WCC First Team for the third season with Tambre Nobles collecting Academic All-WCC Honorable Mention accolades. Additionally, Welling finished her senior season as the all-time rally-scoring era leader in sets played with 453. She also finished second all-time in the rally-scoring era for career digs with 1,122.
Ciara Parker became BYU’s all-time leader in digs this year by amassing 485, a single-season BYU record.
As a team, the Cougars collected 465.5 total blocks, a new NCAA rally-scoring era record. The teams’ 3.85 blocks per set is also a new NCAA rally-scoring era record.
Looking ahead to the 2015 season, BYU loses four seniors, including starters Hamson and Nobles. The team returns seven freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors to next year’s squad. Additionally, the Cougars have signed three recruits from high school for the 2015 season.