By BYU Athletic Communications
With five new recruits and a new head coach, the BYU women’s volleyball team is setting out to make its mark on a new conference in the 2011 season. Led by senior Christie Carpenter and junior Nicole Warner, the Cougars enter the new season ready to play with veteran experience and fresh talent.
“We’re excited about the season,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “The girls responded well during our double days in fall camp and we’re eager to get out and start competing. They’re effort during camp was great, so we’re pleased and anxious to start this season.”
Heading into the West Coast Conference, BYU is undefeated in its series’ against four of the eight new conference foes, has a winning record against one and is tied with two. Four of this season’s WCC members finished in the top 100 teams of 2010.
“This season we have good depth that we haven’t had in the past, which gives us more options” Olmstead said. “We have returning experience at key positions and we anticipate those girls to excel and lead this group. The experience is a huge plus going forward and experience in matches is crucial.”
BYU Athletics’ new partnership with BYUtv will allow 12 of the 14 home matches to be aired on BYUtv.
Breakdown by Position:
In 2010, Warner ranked third in the Mountain West Conference for blocks and No. 40 in the nation with 1.32 per game and 162 total. Warner also contributed 205 kills and 503 attacks.
“With two years of experience already, Nicole is a great blocker,” Olmstead said. “She has good ability to move side-to-side and she’s becoming more and more skilled at the other positions crucial to hers.”
Kathryn LeCheminant contributed 33 kills and 23 blocks in her first year playing for the Cougars. Fellow sophomore Jessica Jardine totaled 37 kills, 142 attacks and 22 digs in her rookie season.
Kimberli Boswell rounds off the list of returning middle blockers after in seven matches last season.
The Cougars are adding freshman Mariah Katoa, who qualified for the Junior Olympics and took Layton High School to a region championship in 2008.
Carpenter placed second on the team with 313 season kills and led the team with 1,074 attacks in 2010. Carpenter recorded 234 digs for the Cougars and 67 blocks.
Senior Casey Thurston sat out last season due to injury, but will be back and ready for action in 2011. In 2009, Thurston recorded 104 kills for 1.58 per set.
Newly married sophomore Taeja Afalava Toleafoa contributed 39 kills and 47 digs for the Cougars in 2010.
BYU adds three freshmen to the outside hitter position this season. Hannah Robison was one of the top 100 recruits in the nation coming out of high school and helped Orem High School to a third-place finish in state in 2010. Kimberly Dahl helped Pleasant Grove High School to a state championship in 2009 and second-place finishes in 2008 and 2010. She also played with Club Utah. Katie Vaughnof Oak Ridge High School in California became the all-time career kill leader for the high school after the 2010 season with over 1,362 kills.
At opposite hitter, BYU’s returners totaled more than 100 kills each during the 2010 season. Sophomore Jennifer Hamson helped the Cougars to their 9-7 conference record with 644 attacks, 246 kills, 74 digs and 74 blocks.
“Jen has worked hard this off-season,” Olmstead said. “With one year more experience, we anticipate she’ll continue to grow and get better with each opportunity on the court.”
Hamson is joined by senior Camilla Phillips, who totaled 116 kills and 49 blocks last season.
After backing up and learning from star setter Kiana Rogers last season, junior setter Heather Hannemann will take over for 2011. Hannemann had 71 assists, 17 digs and 13 attacks in the 2010 season.
Kemi McFarland joins the roster at setter after helping Salt Lake Community College to a 28-8 record and undefeated home record in 2010.
As the Cougar Club Y Award’s Walk-On of the Year, Kendalyn Hartsock led the team with 411 digs and added 48 assists last season. Hartsock averaged 3.92 digs per set during conference play, placing her third in the league for digs.
Sophomore Coriann Clark contributed 128 digs for BYU in 2010.
Joining the Cougars, freshman Tia Withers, a Beaverton, Ore., native, helped Sunset High School to back-to-back third-place finishes in state. Withers also competed in beach volleyball, winning five beach championships and two beach doubles championships.
Five teams on this year’s schedule qualified for the 2010 NCAA Division I Championships and four finished in the top 50 in the NCAA.
To kick off the season, the Cougars hosted No. 8 Illinois, UC Santa Barbara and WCC opponent Saint Mary’s in the BYU Nike Invitational last week. BYU went 1-2, losing to the Illini in three games, 28-26, 25-22, 25-16. The Cougars bounced back and beat the Gauchos on Saturday, winning 18-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-9. Sophomores Hamson and Jardine each had career-high performances. The 6-foot-6 Hamson set a new mark in kills with 17 and digs with 18. Jardine had the most kills and digs of her career as well with 10 kills and eight digs.
In the nightcap, BYU fell to new conference foe St. Mary’s, 21-25, 22-25, 29-31. Hamson, Jardine and Heather Hannemann each set personal bests in kills and digs but were unable to defeat the Gaels. Hamson, who had set her career record for kills earlier in the day with 17, finished the night with 20. She also led the Cougars with a .370 hitting percentage. Jardine and Hannemann played strong defense, finishing with 10 digs apiece, also career bests.
Following a matchup with Weber State on Tuesday, the team heads to Kansas for the Kansas State Tournament to take on Idaho, Georgia Southern and Kansas State this weekend.
BYU finishes tournament play with the Utah Invitational in Salt Lake City, where the Cougars will face the Utes, UC Riverside and Eastern Michigan.
Matchups with BYU-Hawaii, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge round off pre-conference play.
League play starts at home with the season’s second match against Saint Mary’s. BYU hits the road to compete against Loyola Marymount, looking to continue its undefeated record against Lions, followed by a matchup against 2010 WCC champion No. 20 San Diego. The Cougars will then host Santa Clara for their Dig Pink Match Oct. 6.
With a 12-6 series history against Pepperdine, the Cougars head to Malibu, Calif., to take on the Waves. Following the Pepperdine matchup, BYU meets Portland on the road for its first battle against the Pilots. The Cougars finish up the first half of conference play facing Gonzaga.