SAN DIEGO—In only its second year in the West Coast Conference the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team clinched a share of the league title despite falling to No. 18 San Diego in a 3-2 (25-23, 28-26, 13-25, 23-25, 15-13) decision Saturday on the Toreros’ home court.
“I’m so happy for the girls,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “It’s been such an exciting and rewarding season. These kids deserve this championship and I’m so happy to see them raise that trophy.”
The conference championship is BYU’s first since the 2005 season.
BYU won the tiebreaker for the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Because both teams had the same record and both teams lost to Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s and each other, the conference looked at the number of sets won in the BYU-San Diego series. BYU won five sets total and San Diego won four sets total in the two matches played this season, giving BYU the automatic bid.
BYU drops to 25-3 on the season and 13-3 in conference for the team’s best league record since 2006. San Diego improves to 21-6 and 13-3 in league play.
Three Cougars had double-doubles. Jennifer Hamson had 23 kills, her second match with more than 20 kills this week, and a season-high 15 digs. Setter Heather Hannemann, who became No. 8 in BYU history for career assists in BYU’s defeat of Pepperdine, recorded 55 assists and a season-high 15 digs. Nicole Warner passed Amy Gant’s career block assists record to become No. 3 in BYU history for block assists with her 12 block assists. She totaled 13 blocks with 10 kills and now has 602 career block assists. Kathryn LeCheminant also scored double-figure kills with 10.
The Cougars had 17 blocks to San Diego’s seven, though the Toreros had the edge in kills (70-68) and digs (104-99). BYU had the better hitting percentage, hitting .234 while the Toreros hit .158.
BYU started the first set 4-1 and quickly increased its lead to 8-4. The Toreros fought back within one point at 9-8, but the Cougars took another 4-1 stroll to halt San Diego’s momentum and put the score at 13-9. Toreros Shelby Staab and Sandra Lozic blocked Warner to tie the score up at 17-17, but BYU kept the edge with an error by Lozic on the next point.
San Diego took its first lead of the set with a big block and pushed ahead 21-19 on a kill from Carrie Baird. Down 24-23, BYU had a chance to tie it up with LeCheminant serving, but a Lozic kill gave the 25-23 set to the Toreros.
Behind to start the second set, the Cougars overcame a 3-1 deficit to take a 5-3 lead on a kill by Kimberly Dahl. San Diego tied it up at 10-10 and took an opportunity to pass the Cougars with the help of a kill by Alaysia Brown.
BYU couldn’t get back on top until a Hamson kill brought the score to 23-22 for the Toreros. A block by Warner and Gray tied the score at 24-24 and another kill by Hamson put BYU in the lead. San Diego stole it back, and BYU couldn’t capitalize on another tie, falling 28-26 to put the Toreros ahead 2-0 on the match.
The Cougars shot forward in the third set, leading 9-1 before the Toreros got back in the game. The Toreros were able to cut the lead down to seven, but a 4-1 BYU run which included a block by Jardine and Warner and a Hamson kill gave BYU its biggest lead of the match so far at 21-11. Three-straight Cougar points, two by Hamson, gave the Cougars an easy 25-13 win in the third.
Trailing 11-7 in the fourth quarter, BYU went on an 11-2 run to regain the lead. Back-to-back kills by Dahl pushed BYU forward to a 22-15 lead before San Diego took a 6-2 run to cut the lead to 24-23. Warner stepped up to make the kill to give BYU the fourth set and push the match to a fifth set.
San Diego took the lead in the fifth set, outscoring BYU 8-3 to start. Dahl scored on two kills to get BYU back in the game, down only 8-6 now. BYU fought to stay with the Toreros, bringing the score to 14-13, but a kill by Lisa Kramer gave the set and the match to San Diego.
BYU will take on UVU Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse. The selection show for the NCAA Tournament will be held Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. EST. The show can be viewed online at NCAA.com.