Seniors Rachel Dyer and Bryn Porter will lead the Cougars in 2008. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
After finishing last season ranked No. 12 in the nation with a 24-8 overall record, the 2008 Cougars are looking to build upon the success of last year, which culminated with an appearance in the Regional Finals of the NCAA Tournament. With 39 years of storied volleyball tradition providing the background, BYU hopes to once again challenge for the Mountain West Conference title in 2008 while making another NCAA Tournament run. The Cougars' begin practice on Monday.
“I’m very excited for this season,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding, who begins her first year with the Cougars in 2008. “Our returning players have matured a great deal, and our newcomers will be wonderful assets to what is BYU volleyball. I expect us to pull together and accomplish great things this year.”
With three starters among eight letterwinners returning, BYU will have talent and experience to draw on throughout the year as the Cougars overcome the challenge of losing four starters, including All-American Chelsea Goodman. Returning AVCA All-America honorable mention recipient Rachel Dyer is back for her final season and will be part of a tremendous one-two punch in the middle for BYU along with junior Ashton Hansen Hosford. Senior outside hitter Bryn Porter rounds out the returning starters for the Cougars. Several younger players will also be looked to for success as sophomores Christina Measom on the rightside, Kiana Rogers at the setter position and Christie Carpenter on the outside will also be competing for time after gaining valuable experience last year.
“We lost a lot of offensive production from last year, but we expect out returning players to step it up,” said Goulding. “Many players will have opportunities to take on new roles as team leaders. We have a lot of great talent and volleyball knowledge on this team. We expect everyone to push each other and keep us focused on the goals we’ve set.”
Several new faces will contribute to the Cougars’ success this year both on and off the court as BYU welcomes a new coaching staff and seven newcomers for the 2008 season. Former Salt Lake Community College Head Coach Goulding will guide the BYU program this year, becoming just the fifth head coach in Cougar history. Goulding had tremendous success in her five seasons at SLCC, leading her teams to top-10 finishes at the NJCAA National Tournament in three of the past four years while earning four district and two region coach-of-the-year awards. On the sidelines with Goulding will be former BYU men’s volleyball standout Shawn Olmstead and the recently graduated Goodman, who hopes to build on her tremendous on-court success over the past four years by helping the Cougars from the bench.
In addition to three incoming freshmen – setter Markelle Malone, rightside hitter Malia Marquardt and middle blocker Nicole Warner – and one walk-on, defensive specialist Melissa Lake, three transfers have made their way to BYU. Junior libero Morgan Lloyd played two seasons at SLCC under Goulding while junior outside hitter Kayla Walker comes to BYU after two years at Pepperdine and sophomore libero Chelsea Goodsell spent her freshman year at Sacramento State. All seven newcomers could contribute significantly for the Cougars this year.
“I have no doubt that our newcomers will fit into our systems and our program not only as outstanding volleyball players but as classy young ladies,” said Goulding. “Our transfers especially have valuable experience that will add to the experience of our returning players.”
A breakdown by position follows.
All-American Rachel Dyer returns in 2008 to headline a strong group in the middle. The senior middle blocker ranked 11th in the country and fourth all-time at BYU with a .411 hitting percentage last season while posting 1.31 blocks per game, fifth in the league and 66th nationally. She earned all-tournament honors at all three of the Cougars’ preseason tournaments last year and was numbered with the first group of Cougars to receive NCAA Regional All-Tournament accolades since 1998. A dominating presence inside, she posted double-digit kills in 24 matches and hit at least .500 in 12 contests.
Dyer will be joined in the middle by junior Ashton Hansen Hosford, who ranked third in the MWC and seventh all-time at BYU with a .389 hitting percentage as a sophomore starter last season. She also led the Cougars, ranked third in the league and 33rd nationally with 1.42 bpg. Known for her focus and intensity, she led BYU in blocks 17 times and hitting percentage in 10 matches, hitting .500 or above 10 times. Freshman Nicole Warner joins BYU in the middle this season after earning first-team all-state honors at Rigby High School in Rigby, Idaho, as a senior while tallying 332 kills and 197 blocks.
With the loss of Goodman on the outside, senior Bryn Porter is ready to step up as the Cougars’ primary offensive weapon at the antennae this year. She posted 2.79 kills per contest in 2007 while notching double-digit kills in 19 matches and tallying five double-doubles. Her leadership and experience will also be a valuable asset to a relatively young Cougar squad. Also returning on the outside for BYU this year is sophomore Christie Carpenter. Carpenter saw action in 10 games as a true freshman last season and has already matured noticeably during her time as a Cougar. Junior Stephanie Lau may also contribute for BYU on the outside this year. Despite playing primarily as a defensive specialist during her first two seasons in a Cougar uniform, Lau saw more time on the outside during the spring and may continue that transition in the fall.
New to BYU’s outside hitting core this season is junior Kayla Walker – the tallest Cougar on the roster this year at 6-foot-5. Walker played two years for the Pepperdine Waves before coming to BYU, earning West Coast Conference honorable mention as a sophomore in 2007 after being named to the WCC All-Freshman Team in 2006.
The Cougars have plenty of options on the rightside this season beginning with sophomore Christina Measom, who played in 11 games as a true freshman last year. Measom averaged 1.09 kills and 1.09 blocks per game while leading the Cougars in blocks three times and hitting percentage once. Fellow returning letterwinner Marisa Vandersteen Boaz could also compete for time on the rightside after playing in two matches last year. Returning redshirt Casey Speredon and incoming freshman Malia Marquardt will both look to make their Cougar debuts this season in that position.
The setter position is shaping up to be a battle as the Cougars return sophomore Kiana Rogers while adding talented freshman Markelle Malone to the mix. Rogers played in 14 matches last year while sharing time with injured Amy Schlauder. She averaged 12.66 assists per game and led BYU to a win over No. 10 Wisconsin but is coming off of offseason surgery that held her out of spring competition. Malone comes to BYU out of Durango High School in Las Vegas, Nev., where she was the starting varsity setter all four years, earning Sunset Division All-Conference all four seasons.
Perhaps BYU’s deepest position this season, the libero spot will feature plenty of competition. In addition to Lau returning as a possible defensive specialist and outside hitter, three new faces will hope to join the rotation in 2008. Junior libero Morgan Lloyd played two seasons at SLCC under Goulding and was named All-Region 18 First Team in 2007 after averaging 4.13 digs per game, which led the Scenic West Athletic Conference. Sophomore libero Chelsea Goodsell, who played her freshman year at Sacramento State under legendary head coach Debbie Colberg, played every match for the Hornets and ranked second on the team with 4.37 digs per game. And finally, sophomore Melissa Lake joined the Cougars as a walk-on last winter and made significant strides in the back row during the spring. All three could contribute right away for BYU.
Continuing its tradition of competitive scheduling, BYU will play seven teams that qualified for the 2007 NCAA Tournament, including two that were ranked in final CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Poll. In addition to a full slate of Mountain West Conference action, the Cougars will play in three preseason tournaments. BYU will open the year hosting the annual Molten Classic on Aug. 29 and 30 featuring in-state rival Utah State, Tulane and 2007 NCAA Tournament-qualifier Missouri. The Cougars will then travel to College Station, Texas, to compete in a tournament hosted by Texas A&M where BYU will face the Aggies along with NCAA Tournament-participants American and Siena. Preseason action wraps up the following week at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to facing the Badgers, who finished 2007 ranked No. 14 nationally, the Cougars will also take on Boise State and Central Michigan. After starting the 16-match MWC schedule on Sept. 18, BYU will step out of league play on Oct. 24 for a match at Texas. The Longhorns advanced to the Elite Eight of last year's NCAA Tournament along with BYU while finishing the year ranked No. 6 in the country. This season will mark the first year that the MWC will not host a volleyball championship. The league's regular-season champion will receive an automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament. BYU has a winning record against all of its 2008 opponents with first meetings against Tulane and Missouri set for this season. The Cougars' all-time record versus this year's competition is a dominating 399-97-1 (.804).