The 2007 BYU women's volleyball season culminated with an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
In a season of ups and downs, the BYU women's volleyball team maintained its position among the nation's elite in 2007, advancing to the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 while earning a No. 12 final national ranking, the program's highest final poll position since 1998.
BYU finished the season 24-8 overall and 12-4 in the Mountain West Conference, tied for second place. Along the way, the Cougars defeated four ranked teams, including No. 10 Wisconsin, No. 25 UNLV, No. 6 Washington and No. 16 Middle Tennessee State. BYU's wins at the Huskies and against the Blue Raiders propelled the Cougars to their first Regional Finals appearance in a decade. One of the last eight teams still playing in December, the Cougars bowed out of the NCAA Tournament at No. 1 Penn State, who went on to win the national championship. Overall, BYU has now played in 24 NCAA tournaments in the 27-year history of the event.
Experience and leadership proved to be the determining factors for the Cougars in 2007 as three seniors -- Chelsea Goodman, Erica Lott and Annie Pinegar -- anchored the team on the court. All three contributed significantly to a BYU team that finished among the top 40 in the nation in hitting percentage (15th - .271), assists per game (21st -- 15.35), blocks per game (27th -- 3.02), match win/loss percentage (36th - .750) and kills per game (38th -- 16.24). After beginning the year ranked No. 17 in the AVCA/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll, the Cougars climbed as high as No. 9 before finishing the year ranked No. 12.
The Smith Fieldhouse once again proved dominant for the Cougars as they went 10-2 on Elaine Michaelis Court while averaging 1,739 fans per match, 17th in the nation. A BYU women's volleyball record crowd of 4,509 saw BYU sweep Utah on Nov. 9. The Cougars are now 470-84 all-time at home and 32-3 on Elaine Michaelis Court over the past three seasons.
Perhaps the defining moment of the season came on Sept. 15 in a five-game come-from-behind win at San Diego State. The victory marked the program's 1,000th all-time win, making BYU just the fourth program in NCAA history to achieve that milestone. Though it did not come easily, the triumph epitomized the self-sacrifice, steely determination and elite performance that defines years of Cougar volleyball. In the world of collegiate volleyball, few schools have a volleyball tradition as successful as the history of the sport at BYU, whose all-time record is now 1,017-281-5 (.782). In the 39 seasons of its recorded history, the Cougars have only suffered one losing season and have won 20 or more matches in 32 of the past 34 years.
BYU began the year earning back-to-back tournament titles with victories at the Hawkeye Challenge hosted by Iowa and the BYU Molten Classic. The Cougars' home opener on Aug. 31 in the Classic featured an epic battle between the Cougars and No. 10 Wisconsin. BYU emerged victorious with a 3-2 win in front of 3,880 fans in the Smith Fieldhouse, vaulting to the No. 9 spot in the national poll. The following week, the Cougars went 1-2 at the Stanford Invitational with losses to No. 17 Cal Poly and No. 2 Stanford.
Sporting a 6-2 record entering Mountain West Conference play and searching for their 1,000th all-time victory, the Cougars were stunned at UNLV with a three-game loss. The Rebels proved to be the surprise team in the MWC in 2007, earning their best overall record and MWC finish in school history while making their first NCAA Tournament appearance. Two days after the UNLV setback, the Cougars seemed once again headed for defeat at SDSU after losing the first two games. But a monumental comeback effort spurred BYU to victory, the historic 1000th win.
A 6-3 record over the next five weeks offered little in the way of highlights as the Cougars dominated likely suspects TCU, Wyoming, Air Force and Utah Valley but dropped two matches to Colorado State and suffered a surprising home loss to New Mexico. But even in the midst of relative mediocrity, the team still managed to make a little history, getting a 3-2 win at Utah to record the first triumph at Crimson Court since 2000. Goodman led the way for BYU, posting the first Cougar triple-double since 2004 with 21 kills, 11 digs and a career-high 12 blocks, doubling her previous rejection tally.
Goodman had also been steadily increasing her career double-double tally during the season, and with 20 kills and 16 digs at Colorado State on Oct. 18, she became the MWC's career record-holder in that category. The achievement was somewhat bittersweet as it came in a losing effort, but the three-game defeat proved to be the last the Cougars would taste for sometime.
After that point, BYU turned things around in the final four weeks of the regular season, winning eight straight matches. The victory streak included three significant wins as the Cougars exacted revenge on the Lobos in Albuquerque after the earlier home loss and defeated Utah and UNLV in the Smith Fieldhouse. The three-game win over the Utes was the first Cougar sweep over their rivals since 2001 and came in front of a BYU women's volleyball record crowd of 4,509 fans. Combined with the earlier win in Salt Lake City, the Cougars swept the season series against Utah for the first time since 1999 and earned the inaugural Deseret First Duel Rivalry Series volleyball trophy. The final match of the regular season saw BYU once again get some pay back, beating No. 25 UNLV in four games.
A semifinal loss to UNLV in the MWC Tournament on the Rebels' home floor the following week left BYU hoping for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars were indeed invited to their 24th Tournament in the 27-year history of the event, opening with a sweep of Ole Miss in the first round. BYU then faced No. 6 Washington in the second round on the Huskies' home court. Looking to advance to the Regionals for the first time since 1999, the Cougars pulled off a spectacular five-game upset, coming from behind to win the last two games and continue their season. After sweeping No. 16 Middle Tennessee State in the Regional Semifinals held at Penn State to become one of the final eight teams playing, the Cougars ended their season with a three-game loss to the top-ranked Nittany Lions, who went on to win the national championship.
Goodman was named to the AVCA All-America Third Team for her efforts, becoming the first Cougar to be selected to an All-America team since 2000. The three-time all-league selection ranked among the conference's top 10 in kills, aces, points and digs this year and was honored as the MWC Player of the Week once. She recorded 20 or more kills in seven matches and finished her Cougar career ranked among the top seven all-time in BYU history in career kills, digs and kills per game.
Junior middle blocker Rachel Dyer earned All-America honorable mention for her performance in 2007. The two-time All-MWC honoree led the league and ranked 10th in the nation in hitting percentage while ranking fourth in the MWC in blocks. She posted double-digit kills in 24 of 32 matches and hit .500 or above 12 times. The Encinitas, Calif., native tallied four double-doubles while leading BYU in blocks 17 times, hitting 13 times and kills five times. Her overall season hitting percentage of .411 ranks fourth all-time in Cougar history.