(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
OKLAHOMA CITY – The No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball team fell in three sets (21-25, 24-26, 14-25) to the defending champions Penn State in the NCAA National Championship game on Saturday night.
"Congrats to Penn State on an oustanding season," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Russ Rose may go down as the greatest coach ever in the sport. I'm just happy to have been able to be along for the ride with these kids, especially the seniors. All the credit goes to them and my assistant coaches for getting us here. We've had a great run this year."
Senior Jennifer Hamson finished with a team-high 14 kills, eight digs and two blocks with Alexa Gray adding nine kills and two blocks. Amy Boswell contributed seven kills, three blocks and a solo block, while Tambre Nobles added seven kills and a team-high 12 digs.
Freshman Alohi Robins-Hardy finished the night with 31 assists and eight digs. Ciara Parker added 10 digs with Tia Withers Welling finishing with six of her own.
The Cougars got off to a 3-0 start in the first set with Hamson and Nobles’ kills leading the way. After a kill and a service ace coming from Hamson to give BYU a 6-3 lead, Penn State went on a 4-0 run to take its first lead of the set at 7-6. Boswell reeled off three kills and a block to get within three after the Nittany Lions extended their lead to 16-11. After falling behind 24-19, Boswell and Nobles got kills to cut the deficit 24-21, but Penn State took the first set 25-21.
In the second set, Gray’s kill and Welling’s service ace gave the Cougars a 2-1 start. BYU went on a 7-1 run ignited by Boswell’s kill and capped with consecutive kills by Hamson to extend its lead 13-8. The Cougars maintained their two-point lead until the Nittany Lions chipped away with a 5-2 run to take the 23-22 lead. Boswell’s kill tied it at 24 apiece, but was taken by Penn State’s consecutive points to take the set 26-24.
The Nittany Lions took off in the third set to take a 7-4 lead despite kills from Gray, Nobles and Hamson. An 8-1 run by Penn State was stopped by Hamson’s kill, but BYU still played from behind at 19-8. The Nittany Lions maintained their lead and took the final set 25-14 and the NCAA national title.
Alexa Gray, BYU
Jennifer Hamson, BYU
Ali Frantti, Penn State
Micha Hancock, Penn State
Megan Courtney, Penn State - MVP
Brittany Howard, Stanford
Chiaka Ogbogu, Texas
Saturday night was the first time BYU made it to the title game and was the first unseeded team to ever reach the finals. The Cougars knocked off the No. 11, 6, 14 and 2 seeds in their journey to the national championship game.