Cougars, Toreros face off for WCC title
PROVO, Utah—In the last week of conference play, the No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball team hits the road to engage No. 18 San Diego in the final battle for the league title Saturday after facing Pepperdine Thursday.
A BYU victory in one of this week’s two matches would give the Cougars at least a share of the West Coast Conference title and victories in both would give BYU the outright win. With all their conference matches completed except the match against BYU, the Toreros need the Saturday victory if they don’t want to end up in second place in the WCC for the second year in a row.
The Thursday match against Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., begins at 7 p.m. PST and the Saturday match in San Diego begins at 1 p.m. PST.
BYU is 24-2 on the season and 12-2 in conference. With a .923 win-loss record going into the last three matches of the season, the Cougars are enjoying their best winning percentage since 1986, when BYU went 40-3 with a win-loss percentage of .930 and a No. 4 national finish.
Three Cougars are ranked in four NCAA statistics categories, with senior middle blocker Nicole Warner leading the pack at No. 1 for blocks per set (1.77) and No. 6 for hitting percentage (.434). Senior setter Heather Hannemann comes in at No. 26 for assists per set (11.24) and junior opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson is No. 28 for points per set (4.87).
Hamson leads the Cougars with 3.91 kills per set, helped out by freshman outside hitter Alexa Gray’s 3.45 kills per set. Hamson reached 1,000 career kills in the Cougars’ last victory. Hamson only needs 182 more kills to make it into the top 10 in BYU history for career kills.
Also in BYU’s record books, Warner sits at No. 4 in block assists with 588 and No. 4 in total blocks with 614. Warner needs seven more block assists to pass Amy Steele Gant to become No. 3 in that category and 81 more total blocks to pass Gant in that category.
In her second year as a starter, Heather Hannemann is No. 9 in BYU history for assists with 2,247 and needs 36 more to pass Amy Schlauder to become No. 8.
After last week’s sweep of Santa Clara, BYU is still at No. 1 in Division I for hitting percentage (.316). Due to only playing one match in week 12, BYU is now in second place for win-loss record (.923), tied with Stanford. Penn State jumped ahead of BYU in that category with a record of 25-2 and a winning percentage of .926. BYU is also No. 6 in blocks per set with 3.01.
The Cougars come in at No. 12 in the RPI rankings. Even with a loss this week, the Cougars should receive their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 2007 at the end of the regular season.
With the Cougars’ last two conference matches on the road, BYU maintains its undefeated home record in WCC play at 8-0. The Cougars end the regular season with a match against UVU Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. MST at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Looking to end a three-match losing streak—which includes losses to San Diego, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco—the Waves (18-10, 7-7 WCC) will host BYU before taking on Gonzaga. The losing streak bumped Pepperdine out of the top 25, though the Waves are still receiving votes.
At No. 36 in RPI, the Waves still have a chance of receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Jazmine Orozco leads Pepperdine with 3.79 kills per set with the help of setter Kellie Woolever’s 11.19 assists per set. Michaela Christiaansen leads in digs with a 3.63 average and Victoria Adelhelm leads in blocks with 1.18 per set.
In the teams’ last meeting, BYU swept the then-No. 14 Waves at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars lead the all-time series with Pepperdine 13-8-0.
The Toreros are 20-5 this season and 12-3 in conference. At No. 2 in conference standings, their last chance to win a share of the conference title is Saturday against BYU. San Diego faces San Diego State in a non-conference, cross-town showdown Wednesday before meeting with the Cougars.
At No. 24 in RPI, San Diego has a good chance of making it into the NCAA Tournament even if the team loses either of its matches this week.
Three Toreros take care of offense for San Diego. Chloe Ferrari leads with 2.72 kills per set, followed by Katie Hoekman and Alaysia Brown with 2.64 apiece. Hoekman also leads in blocks with 1.11 per set. Rachel Alvey runs the floor with 9.86 assists per set while Kandiss Anderson leads in digs with a 3.74 average.
The Cougars and the Toreros last met on Halloween, when BYU took down San Diego 3-1 on ESPNU. Since then, BYU has been in sole possession of the No. 1 spot in conference standings. San Diego leads the overall series 3-2.
How to follow
Live video streaming and live stats for the San Diego match are available on San Diego’s Game Central page.
Follow the team’s Twitter feed @BYUwvolleyball for live updates.
Former BYU women’s volleyball All-American Amy Boswell Usevitch will be inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor on Saturday…