Bower named WCC Player and Setter of the Year; Olmstead receives WCC Coach of the Year

Braden Taylor | Posted: 11 Apr 2021 | Updated: 11 Apr 2021
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Whitney Bower - Player of the Year
Whitney Bower - Setter of the Year Heather Olmstead - Coach of the Year BYU All-WCC First Team Graphic BYU All-WCC Second Team/Honorable Mention BYU WCC All-Freshman Team

SAN MATEO, Calif. – West Coast Conference coaches voted BYU sophomore setter Whitney Bower the WCC Player and Setter of the Year while head coach Heather Olmstead was named the league’s Coach of the Year for the third time in her career.

Bower was one of four Cougars named to the All-WCC First Team, joining senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon, senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer.

Freshman libero Madi Allen received All-WCC Second Team honors and freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston collected All-WCC honorable mention. Allen, Livingston and middle blocker Leilani Dodson were also named to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

Bower led one of the most efficient offenses in the country as BYU ranked No. 5 nationally in assists per set (13.56), No. 5 in team hitting percentage (.312) and No. 9 in kills per set (14.40). During conference play, the two-time All-WCC First Team honoree averaged 10.83 assists, 3.43 digs and 0.81 kills per game on .404 attacking.

The Cougars have now collected six Player of the Year honors since 2012, with this marking the third consecutive year a BYU player has come away with the recognition (Roni Jones-Perry, 2018; McKenna Miller, 2019). Bower becomes the first Cougar to receive Setter of the Year after the WCC introduced the award at the end of the 2019 season.

Securing her third WCC Coach of the Year honor, Olmstead led BYU to its fifth conference title since taking over as head coach in 2015. The Cougars finished the regular season going 16-1 overall and 15-1 in WCC play to secure the No. 16 seed in their ninth straight NCAA Tournament berth. Under Olmstead, BYU has advanced to four Sweet 16s and the 2018 Final Four. She currently owns the highest career winning percentage among active coaches at 160-19 (.894) and is 97-9 (.915) in conference matches.

Often the focal point of the BYU attack, Ballard-Nixon led the Cougars in kills per set (3.83) and points per set (4.41) during conference play while securing her first career All-WCC honor. The senior accumulated 203 kills, 104 digs, 28 blocks and 14 aces in 53 sets.

Eschenberg proved dominant both offensively and defensively when on the court for BYU. A two-time All-WCC First Team selection, Eschenberg ranked No. 6 in the NCAA with an average of 1.52 blocks per set (70 total) and No. 11 nationally with a .459 hitting percentage. Leading the WCC in both individual categories, she helped the Cougars lead the league as a team in blocks per set (2.38) and hitting percentage (.312).

Grimmer made her first appearance on an All-WCC First Team after tallying 155 kills (2.92 per set), the second-most on the team, on an exceptional .341 clip, the third-best hitting percentage in the WCC. The sophomore also added 33 blocks and 29 digs to her conference play stat line.

Allen averaged 4.09 digs per set to amass 217 digs in 53 sets to earn her spot on the All-WCC Second Team and WCC All-Freshman Team. The true freshman also tallied 82 assists and 14 aces across BYU’s 16 WCC matches.

Livingston collected All-WCC honorable mention and was named to the WCC All-Freshman Team after totaling 129 kills, 31 blocks and 27 digs. Dodson secured her spot on the WCC All-Freshman team following a freshman campaign that resulted in 104 kills, 41 blocks, 20 digs and 14 aces.

For a full list of WCC honorees, click here.

The Cougars are preparing for the start of the NCAA Tournament next week. After receiving the No. 16 seed and a first-round bye, BYU will face the winner of the Rider and UCLA match on Thursday, April 15 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN3. The entire tournament is being held at the CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

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