2020-21 women’s volleyball season review
Competing in an unprecedented 2020-21 spring season, BYU women’s volleyball once again finished among the top teams in the nation while claiming the West Coast Conference title and making yet another Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament.
Ending the season with a record of 17-2, the Cougars played an almost exclusive conference schedule during the regular season. The only non-conference match of the regular season came against in-state foe Utah Valley after a WCC opponent postponed its season for two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols.
BYU won 15 of its 16 conference matchups to claim the WCC title outright. The league championship marked Heather Olmstead’s fifth in six years as the Cougars’ head coach.
The Cougars received the No. 16 seed and a first-round bye in their ninth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. BYU opened the 2020 NCAA Tournament with a sweep of UCLA in the second round before falling to top-seeded Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. BYU was nationally ranked every week of the spring season, ending the year No. 15 in the final AVCA poll.
The AVCA named Kennedy Eschenberg to its All-America Third Team following an outstanding season in the middle. The senior ended the season No. 6 in the NCAA Division I with an average of 1.58 blocks per set and No. 10 nationally with a .435 hitting percentage. The middle blocker totaled 135 kills and only 18 errors in 269 attempts while leading the team with 82 total blocks.
The association also recognized Whitney Bower and Taylen Ballard-Nixon with All-America honorable mention.
Bower, who was named the 2020 WCC Player and Setter of the Year, led one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The setter ended the year with 676 assists, 221 digs, 48 kills, 28 blocks and 22 aces while tallying 11 double-doubles in 19 matches. The setter averaged 10.38 assists per set to help the Cougars rank No. 5 nationally in assists per set (13.41), No. 5 in team hitting percentage (.302) and No. 8 in kills per set (14.29).
Ballard-Nixon averaged 3.79 kills per set and 4.38 points per set to lead the Cougars in both categories. The outside hitter took on a much larger role this year and was a key contributor to BYU’s success. Even with the shortened season, she finished with career-high season totals of 239 kills, 133 digs and 15 aces while also adding 38 blocks.
Olmstead was named the WCC Coach of the Year and the AVCA Pacific South Region Coach of the Year. Ballard-Nixon, Bower, Eschenberg and opposite Kate Grimmer were named All-WCC First Team and the AVCA Pacific South All-Region.