The 2006 Cougars racked up a 25-6 overall record while finishing the season ranked No. 20. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The No. 20 BYU women's volleyball team continued its tradition of excellence in 2006 with a 25-6 overall record and a second round NCAA Tournament appearance.
"I'm pleased with the progress we made this year," said BYU head coach Jason Watson, whose teams have gone 50-10 in his two years at the helm. "The season we were able to put together this year was representative of the direction we want the program to go. We feel like we have work to do, but we are going to get better."
The Cougars finished in second place in the Mountain West Conference with a 13-3 league record and spent the season ranked in the AVCA Top 25 Poll, ending the year at No. 20 after making their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance in the 26-year history of the Championship. The Smith Fieldhouse once again proved to be a dominant homecourt advantage as BYU went 12-1 on Elaine Michaelis Court during 2006 while setting a program attendance record with an average crowd of 1,902.
Injuries plagued the Cougars throughout the year as the team played 13 matches without the services of all of their starters. Sophomore setter Amy Schlauder sat out eight matches with a broken finger while junior rightside hitter Erica Lott missed two contests and sophomore middle blocker Rachel Dyer was unavailable on five occasions due to injury. However, despite going more than a month without their full starting rotation, the Cougars rallied around their teammates as several players stepped up and made the most of their playing opportunities, ensuring continued success.
BYU began the year taking consecutive tournament titles with three sweeps at the UCF Fall Invitational followed by a win over then-No. 4 Stanford, the eventual national runner-up, in Provo the next weekend in front of a record crowd of 4,050 while earning the BYU Molten Classic crown. The Cougars then took their 6-0 record on the road to the Jayhawk Invitational where they suffered their first defeat of the season against host Kansas after Schlauder broke her finger in the first game. But BYU bounced back the next day to beat Arkansas behind the play of back-up setter Jenna Judkins, who paced the Cougars to a 7-1 record in Schlauder's absence while leading the MWC in assists during her stint at the net.
After going 8-1 prior to starting league play, BYU won its first four conference matches, including its first home win over Colorado State since 2000. Without the services of Schlauder or Lott, however, the Cougars then suffered their only home loss of the year to in-state rival Utah in front of another record-breaking crowd of 4,455. But the loss was quickly forgotten with a seven-match winning streak, including four sweeps, that saw the Cougars improve to 19-2 overall and rise as high as No. 16 in the nation.
Unfortunately, BYU's winning streak came to an end when the Cougars suffered their only back-to-back defeats of the year at then-No. 9 Utah and at New Mexico. But BYU rebounded with five straight wins to end the regular season. As part of the run, the Cougars beat the Rams in Fort Collins, Colo., to complete the season sweep of CSU for the first time since 1995.
Postseason play did not begin as the Cougars hoped with an early exit from the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas, but the time off prepared BYU for a tough first round NCAA Tournament matchup against UC Santa Barbara in Los Angeles. The Cougars completed an incredible comeback from two games down to earn the five-game win behind the strength of Annie Kemp Pinegar's record-setting 42 digs, breaking the 22-year-old BYU mark. However, BYU could overcome host USC the following night, falling to the No. 6 Trojans to end the season with a 25-6 record.
In addition to being ranked No. 20 in the nation as a team to end the year, the Cougars finished 16th nationally in hitting percentage (.269), 24th in win/loss percentage (.806) and 33rd in blocks per game (2.96). Several individuals also excelled as Cougars led the MWC in four of the seven statistical categories tracked by the league including hitting percentage (Lindsy Hartsock), kills (Chelsea Goodman), assists (Schlauder) and points (Goodman). Hartsock ranked 17th nationally in hitting with a .389 mark while Schlauder ranked 24th in assists per game at 13.15 and Goodman was 43rd in the nation with 4.49 kills per game.
Goodman emerged as the Cougars' go-to player in 2006 and received All-America honorable mention from both the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine. The junior also earned AVCA All-West Region First Team and All-MWC recognition after leading the conference in kills per game and points as well as being ranked among the top 10 in aces and digs per game. The powerful outside hitter racked up a league-leading 18 double-doubles on the year, bringing her career total to 34, which ranks third all-time in MWC history. Goodman, who was twice named the MWC Player of the Week, also recorded 20 or more kills in seven matches during the season, including a career-high 27 against TCU -- the most by a Cougar since 2003.
Lott, another AVCA All-Region and All-MWC selection this year, made a switch from the outside to the rightside in the offseason and came up big for the Cougars all year long. After earning MVP honors in both of BYU's preseason tournaments, she finished the regular season ranked third in the league in both kills and points and ninth in blocks. Lott, who received MWC Player of the Week honors after leading BYU to a win over then-No. 4 Stanford, topped the 20-kill mark four times while racking up nine double-doubles.
Dyer showed why she will be a force to be reckoned with in the middle over the next two years as she made her first appearance on the All-MWC Team in 2006 after finishing the year ranked third in the league in hitting percentage and sixth in blocks. Despite missing five matches due to injury, she hit .500 or above six times while reaching double-digit kills 10 times and double-digit blocks once with a career-high 12 against Wyoming.
Other Cougars also made significant contributions during the season as Schlauder's 13.15 assists per game average on the year ranked second all-time at BYU and helped the Cougars rank sixth all-time in single-season assist average at 14.64. Judkins recorded three double-doubles during her eight-match run as the starting setter. Pinegar ranked ninth in the MWC in digs after starting at the libero position in 13 of the last 14 matches, posting double-digit digs in each one. Her 42 digs against UCSB smashed the old BYU record of 35 digs set in 1984.
While several Cougars proved the program is in good hands next year, BYU said goodbye to two of its stalwarts in seniors Kim Wilson Sorensen and Lindsy Hartsock. A 2004 All-MWC pick, Sorensen completed a successful senior season after redshirting in 2005 due to shoulder surgery. She recorded double-digit kills in 12 matches while hitting .209 on the year and averaging 2.67 kills per game.
Hartsock earned All-MWC honors as a senior after leading the league in hitting percentage and ranking third in blocks and took home All-Tournament honors at both the UCF Fall Invitational and the BYU Molten Classic. The team co-captain recorded double-digit kills in nine matches and posted 14 blocks at Wyoming while hitting .500 or above 11 times. She finished her BYU career ranked fourth all-time in program history in career total blocks (595), career block assists (555) and career block average (1.43) while ranking sixth with her .389 hitting percentage in 2006. In addition to excelling on the court, Hartsock was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Third Team for her work in the classroom.