(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – No. 11 BYU women’s volleyball finished the 2015 season with a 28-4 overall record, a West Coast Conference title and a fourth-straight trip to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Heather Olmstead completed her first season taking over for her brother Shawn Olmstead at the helm of the Cougars. She was named the 2015 WCC Coach of the Year.
BYU ended the year with two Cougars receiving All-America honors. Senior outside hitter Alexa Gray was named to the first team while Amy Boswell was added to the third team. Gray is the first player in BYU’s history to be named an AVCA All-American three times in her career.
The Cougars went 10-1 in nonconference play to start the season – falling only to then-No. 22 USC in Los Angeles. Along that stretch BYU defeated No. 7 North Carolina and No. 24 Purdue. Seven of these 11 early matches were won in sweeps.
The Cougars also won the Deseret First Duel for the fifth-consecutive season, sweeping Utah at the Huntsman Center.
BYU started WCC play with seven of its first 10 matches on the road. The Cougars went 8-2 along that stretch, falling at Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount. Additionally, BYU swept San Diego at Jenny Craig Pavilion to get its first win there since joining the conference.
Playing their next six of eight matches at home, the Cougars were perfect down the stretch to complete a 16-2 league record and an outright WCC title by a two-match margin.
BYU collected the conference’s auto-bid to the NCAA tournament for a second-consecutive year and was seeded 13th.
The Cougars hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, beating Ohio in four sets before sweeping 20th-ranked Western Kentucky to advance to the regional semifinals for a fourth-straight year.
BYU fell in three sets to eventual national champs Nebraska and finished the season ranked No. 11 in the AVCA poll.
In addition to Gray’s All-America honors, she was named to the AVCA All-Pacific South Region First Team as well as the All-WCC First Team. Gray was also named the WCC Player of the Year for the second-consecutive season. Gray collected five individual Player of the Week awards, tied for most all-time in the WCC. She collected four in-a-row, the most ever by a player in conference history. Additionally, Gray was named an AVCA Division I National Player of the Week for a 30 kill, 32 dig performance at Portland (the first in school history) as well as an ESPNW Player of the Week the following week.
Gray ended her BYU career on several rally-scoring era records lists: No. 1 in total kills (1,848), No. 1 in kills per set (4.03), No. 1 in attempts (4,473) and No. 2 in sets played (459). She also leaves with several individual single match records in the rally-scoring era: No. 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 in kills (31, 30, 29, 29, 27 and 27, respectively), No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 11 in attempts (76, 75, 74, 72, 67 and 63, respectively) and No. 2 in solo blocks (4). In terms of individual single season records in the rally-scoring era, Gray finished with the No. 1, 3, and 10 spots in total kills (582, 477 and 424, respectively), No. 1 and 8 in kills per set (5.24 and 3.97) and No. 1, 4 and 8 in total attempts (1,435, 1,136 and 1,025, respectively).
To compliment Boswell’s All-America honors, she was named the 2015 WCC Defensive Player of the Year while being added to the All-WCC First Team and AVCA All-Pacific South Region First Team. She also received a WCC Player of the Week award.
On the academic side, Boswell was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team – the first Cougar in any sport to make the list since 2012. She was also the first WCC player in the history of volleyball to make the list. Boswell also received Academic All-WCC accolades and earned Academic All-District 8 honors.
Boswell finished the season as the No. 1 blocker in the conference (1.41 per set) in addition to having the highest hitting percentage (.365). Her blocks-per-set total is good for No. 9 in the rally-scoring era during an individual season. Also on that list, her block assists (145) and total blocks (158) are 11th- and 10th-most all-time. Her .365 clip is fifth on the season list.
Whitney Young Howard made the All-WCC Honorable Mention list while picking up Academic All-WCC accolades.
Ciara Parker also made the All-WCC Honorable Mention list while adding Academic All-WCC Honorable Mention honors.
Early in the season, Parker became the all-time dig leader at BYU with her 1,793 total. She collected double-digit digs in all but six matches (all sweeps) this year. Her 461 career sets played is a new BYU rally-scoring era record.
Veronica Jones was added to the All-WCC Freshman Team to round out the Cougar honors.
As a team, BYU notched its way into several team single match records from the rally-scoring era. The Cougars collected 104 digs in a four-set win at Portland – most all-time. Additionally, the 72 assists and 76 kills are the fourth- and third-most all-time in four-set matches. The Cougars also notched matches with hitting percentages of .482, .449 and .444 – good for No. 2, No. 5 and No. 7 all-time.
In terms of a single season, the team placed No. 2 in hitting percentage (.277), No. 6 in solo blocks (49), No. 5 in service aces (147), No. 7 in digs (1,653), No. 2 in wins (28), No. 6 and 7 in consecutive wins (10 and 9), No. 3 in most 3-0 wins (17) and No. 2 in most 3-1 wins (8).
Looking ahead to the 2016 season, BYU loses three senior starters – Gray, Parker and Camry Godfrey Willardson. The team returns seven freshmen, four sophomores and three juniors to next year’s squad. Additionally, the Cougars have signed three recruits to be added to the 2016 roster.