MANHATTAN, Kan. (Sept. 3, 2011)—Tournament MVP Jennifer Hamson led the BYU women’s volleyball team to a first-place finish in the Varney’s Invitational with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-23) victory against host Kansas State Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Cougars’ record increases to 5-2, including a four-match winning streak.
“I thought this was a wonderful step for us as a team,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We were able to travel to Kansas State and play three solid matches while still in the beginning of the season. The girls were up at times and down at times, but they responded well to playing against a home team. They played pretty consistently.”
Opposite hitter Hamson recorded 17 kills, hitting .438 with eight digs and four blocks. Junior middle blocker Nicole Warner led the Cougars in blocks with six to tie her season high and contributed five kills. At setter, junior Heather Hannemann had 33 assists and libero Kendalyn Hartsock contributed 15 digs.
Hamson carried the Cougars in the first set with 10 kills at .643 hitting. Kansas State (4-3) surged past the Cougars to open the match, but BYU fought back to tie 6-6. A kill from Christie Carpenter took the lead for the Cougars 8-7. After a 6-2 BYU run, the Wildcats answered with a 4-0 run to tie the set 16-16.
Hamson put the Cougars in position to take the set with her 10th kill, but the Wildcats’ Kaitlynn Pelger kept the score dangerously close with a kill and a block. With the score at 24-23, freshman outside hitter Katie Vaughn took the set with a kill, assisted by Hannemann who had 14 assists on the set.
Cougars got off to a slow start in the second game, but came back for another 6-6 tie on a Wildcat error. Middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant blocked an attack by Kansas State’s Alex Muff, pushing BYU to its first lead of the set. The teams switched off scoring as the set progressed, tying seven times with two lead changes.
BYU broke out of the deadlock on a Wildcat error, launching a 5-0 scoring streak. LeCheminant seized the 2-0 match lead with a kill, taking the set 25-19.
Coming out strong in the third, the Cougars quickly took the lead with Hamson responsible for four of the first nine points.
LeChem teamed up with freshman Katie Vaughn for back-to-back blocks for a 7-3 score before joining Hamson for another two straight blocks.
A service error killed the Cougars’ momentum, giving the Wildcats six consecutive points and the lead until back-to-back service aces from Hannemann got BYU back in the game with a 14-14 tie. Hamson stole the lead back for BYU on a kill followed by an ace from Warner.
The Wildcats didn’t give up, keeping the score close as the match wound down. A Cougar attack error tied the set 22-22, but kills from Hamson and Carpenter pushed the Cougars closer to victory. Warner sealed the match for the Cougars on a block with Vaughn, putting BYU in first place to close out the Varney’s Invitational.
“We try to make our offense and defense a little better with each opportunity to practice in a match setting,” Olmstead said. “This gave us a chance to see where we can improve. Now we’ll go out and do it.”
Hamson was named MVP of the tournament following the win. She and Warner were also included on the all-tournament team.
The Cougars take on BYU-Hawaii this Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT in the Smith Fieldhouse before heading to Salt Lake City for the Utah Invitational, where they will face UC Riverside on Friday, and Eastern Michigan and Utah on Saturday.