Women's Volleyball Season Preview

The 2009 Women's Volleyball Team. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

With 40 years of storied volleyball tradition providing the background, the 2009 BYU women’s volleyball team looks to challenge for the Mountain West Conference title in 2009 and return to the NCAA Tournament for the 25th time in Cougar history. After experiencing a year of transition with a new coaching staff, the Cougars are ready for a challenging and rewarding 2009 campaign.

“I love the direction that BYU volleyball is going,” said Cougar head coach Shay Goulding. “We have some great athletes returning, and with the addition of several key newcomers the future looks extremely bright. Without a doubt, we will be back on track to the winning traditions established here at BYU.”

With four 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 three starters, including the standout middle-blocking duo of Rachel Dyer and Ashton Hansen Hosford. Returning All-Mountain West Conference honoree Kayla Walker is back for her senior season after making a tremendous impact last year for BYU. The Pepperdine transfer began the season on the outside but finished on the rightside with fantastic success, which she plans to continue this year. A trio of juniors also returns from last year’s starting line-up in Melissa Lake Wright, Christina Measom and Kiana Rogers. Lake Wright earned the starting libero spot midway through the season and finished fifth in the league in digs. Measom also earned her starting opportunity halfway through the year and made her presence felt on the outside. She may also be asked to contribute in the middle in 2009. Rogers rounds out the returning starters for BYU as she prepares for her third season as the Cougar setter.

Several other returning players will be looking to make their mark this year starting with senior Morgan Lloyd Sorensen, who played in every match in 2008 as a libero and defensive specialist after joining the team from Salt Lake Community College. Fellow senior Stephanie Lau could also contribute as an outside hitter or defensive specialist. Senior Marisa Boaz will be competing for playing time in the middle while sophomore Casey Speredon came on strong at the end of last season on the outside and could immediately contribute again this year. In addition to the experience BYU’s eight returning letterwinners bring, the Cougars will also benefit from three sophomore redshirts who are no strangers to the court. Christie Carpenter took a redshirt last year after playing in 10 sets on the outside as a true freshman in 2007 and has improved tremendously. Chelsea Goodsell also redshirted last year after transferring from Sacramento State, where she played in every match as a freshman libero. The Cougars will also be welcoming Brooke Taualii Soon back to the court this season as a sophomore after she redshirted in 2007 and served as the team manager last year. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Nicole Warner will also be competing for time after gaining valuable experience last year.

Six new faces will contribute to the Cougars’ success this year both on and off the court as BYU welcomes one transfer and four freshmen for the 2009 season. Junior outside hitter Camilla Phillips was named an NJCAA All-American last season out of Salt Lake Community College, where she played under Goulding as a freshman. The All-Region 18 First Team honoree averaged 3.07 kills per set with 67 blocks in 2008. Two Utah products, setter Heather Hanneman (Alpine) and middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant (Bountiful), will join the Cougars this season as freshmen along with rightside hitter Lauren Sagers out of Las Vegas, Nev., libero/defensive specialist Courtney Honka from Porterville, Calif. and rightside hitter Courtney Donaldson from LaVerne, Calif. All six newcomers could contribute significantly for the Cougars this year.

“I’m very excited for this season,” said Goulding. “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.”

A breakdown by position follows.

MIDDLE BLOCKER

Led by Academic All-MWC junior, Christina Measom, the Cougars will post a strong attack in the middle. Measom played in 18 matches and 51 sets for the Cougars in 2008. She began hitting on the rightside and moved to the outside near the end of the year, but will be playing middle for the Cougars this season. Measom finished the year with 91 kills, two assists, 19 digs and 33 blocks on .154 hitting, averaging 1.78 kills and 0.65 blocks per set.

Measom will be joined in the middle by Senior Marisa Boaz who posted a season-high four blocks against Wyoming in the final match of the 2008 season. Freshman Nicole Warner who hit .543 while averaging 1.3 blocks per game in 2007 for the Idaho Falls Juniors club will provide depth to the middle. While in high school she was named to first-team All-State as a senior in 2007 after posting 332 kills and 197 blocks. Freshman Kathryn LeCheminant will also add depth to the middle, who helped her team finish 38th at the Junior Olympics in 2008. LeCheminant brings a career-high 25 kills, eight blocks and five service aces to the Cougar roster.

OUSIDE HITTER

Casey Speredon Thurston and Christie Carpenter are both touching 10-foot-4 and will look to be the leading outside hitters for the Cougars in 2009. Thurston saw action in 11 matches and 13 sets as a redshirt freshman in 2008, totaling 18 kills, one dig and one block on the year. Carpenter played in three matches and 10 sets as a freshman in 2007, tallying 16 kills, two aces, 13 digs and four blocks.

Senior Stephanie Lau will provide collegiate experience to the outside as well as serving as a defensive specialist. In 2008 she totaled four kills, one ace and five digs while hitting .250 on the year. Salt Lake Community College transfer, Camilla Phillips, played her freshman year under BYU head coach Shay Goulding and was named 2008 NJCAA honorable mention All-American. She totaled 374 kills (3.07/set) on .288 hitting with 67 blocks as a sophomore at SLCC.

RIGHTSIDE

A 2008 All-MWC selection and 2009 All-MWC preseason pick, Kayla Walker, will lead the Cougars in the attack from the right side. After transferring from Pepperdine in 2008, Walker played in every match and all but one set in her first season with the Cougars. Although she started 2008 on the outside, she hit on the rightside in the last 10 matches, finding her niche in BYU volleyball. Walker finished the 2008 season with 285 kills, 10 assists, 13 aces, 197 digs and 86 blocks. She ranked first on the team and sixth in the MWC with 3.03 kills per set. She also ranked fifth in the league in points per set (3.64). Walker led the Cougars in kills 13 times, hitting percentage three times, digs once and blocks six times on the 2008 season.

Newcomer, Lauren Sagers will also provide depth to the rightside being a four-time letterwinner at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Nev. She was named region MVP and all-region first-team as well as team MVP.

SETTER

Junior Kiana Rogers played in every match and every set for BYU as the starting setter in her sophomore season. She averages 10.14 assists per set, ranking third in the MWC. She finished the 2008 season with 20 aces, .21 per contest. Rogers tallied a team-best 10 double-doubles while posting double-digit digs in 10 matches on the year.

Freshman Heather Hannemann will challenge Rogers for the starting position at setter. She earned prepvolleyball.com All-America honors and first-team all-state as a senior in high school. She was also named 2008 Deseret News 5A state MVP and Provo Daily Herald Utah Valley Player of the Year. Hannemann averaged 0.47 service aces, 1.86 digs and 9.36 assists per set as a senior at Lone Peak High School. After serving as the team manager in 2008, Brooke Taualii Soon will serve as a backup setter for the Cougars. As a senior in high school she earned first-team all-league recognition in 2006 while totaling 246 kills, 21 assists, 56 aces, 420 digs and 31 blocks on .300 hitting.

LIBERO

Senior Morgan Lloyd Sorensen who played in every match and set in her first season with the Cougars will serve in the capacity of libero. In 2008 she tallied three kills, 29 assists, 24 aces and 218 digs, leading BYU and tied for fourth in the MWC with 0.25 aces per set. Sorensen was third on the team in digs per set with 2.29 and tallied double-digit digs in 10 matches. Melissa Lake Wright will join her with 21 match and 71 set-experience as a walk-on sophomore in 2008. She began last season as a defensive specialist but became the starting libero midway through the season. Wright finished the season with a team-best 253 digs along with two kills, 16 assists and eight aces. She led the team and ranked fifth in the MWC with 3.56 digs per set.

Sacramento State University transfer, Chelsea Goodsell, helped her team compile a 29-8 overall record while winning the Big Sky Conference Championship and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual national runner-up Stanford. She played in every match for the Hornets as a freshman, ranking second on the team with 4.37 digs per game. Goodsell also recorded double-digit digs in 31 matches on the year, topping the 20-dig mark nine times. Freshman Courtney Honka will also defend for the Cougars. She was named league MVP as a senior at Monache High School and played for varsity all four years.

SCHEDULE

Continuing its tradition of competitive scheduling, BYU will play seven teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Tournament, including five that were ranked in the 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 at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri and will face the Tigers, Ole Miss and Texas State, as well as traveling to Utah State on Sept. 1 before returning to the Smith Fieldhouse for its own annual event on Sept. 4 and 5. This year’s Nike Classic will feature in-state rival Weber State, Cal Poly and 2008 NCAA Tournament-qualifier Kansas State, who finished last season ranked No. 20. The Cougars will then travel to women’s volleyball haven Lincoln, Neb., to compete in a tournament hosted by the Cornhuskers. In a power-packed weekend, the Cougars will take on perennial powerhouse UCLA and host Nebraska as well as Virginia in what will be the first meeting between the two squads. The Bruins finished the 2008 campaign ranked No. 8 nationally after advancing to the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament while the Cornhuskers reached the Final Four and were ranked No. 3 in the nation to end the year. After starting the 16-match Mountain West Conference schedule on Sept. 17, BYU will step out of league play on Sept. 29 for a match against North Dakota State, winner of the Summit League last year and Utah Valley University in Provo on Oct. 27 amidst a competitive MWC slate and then complete the regular season on Nov. 28 at St. Mary’s, another 2008 NCAA Tournament qualifier. BYU has a winning record against 16 of its 2009 opponents with first meetings against Texas State, Virginia and North Dakota State set for this season. The Cougars’ all-time record versus this year’s competition is a dominating 461-132-2 (.776).

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