Cougars are set

Heather Hannemann sets up the ball for her teammate during a match.

Four years ago, then-Assistant Coach Shawn Olmstead went to the Lone Peak High School v. Pleasant Grove High School volleyball match to scout players from Pleasant Grove, but Lone Peak’s setter Heather Hannemann caught his eye.

“Her story is pretty remarkable,” Olmstead, now BYU’s head women’s volleyball coach, said. “A lot of people don’t know it — the fact that she was originally a walk-on kid.”

Olmstead said he was impressed with Hannemann and told the BYU head coach at the time that the Cougars needed her.

“I called the head coach and said, ‘Hey, we have got to get this kid,’” Olmstead said. “I loved her energy. I loved her fight. I liked her attitude, and then I got to meet her after the game, and I just remember her excitement, her charisma. I wanted that to be a part of our team.”

Growing up in Alpine, Hannemann played basketball and soccer but never considered playing volleyball until a friend suggested it. Now captain for the No. 18 BYU team, Hannemann has become a natural leader, leading the Cougars through the team’s current 24-2 season.

Hannemann’s father, a BYU grad, said it was a done deal when the position of setter opened up and BYU offered Hannemann a full scholarship.

“She had a few other offers,” David Hannemann said. “But she’s always wanted to play for BYU, and when she got the scholarship she was like, ‘Dad, it’s like my dream came true.’ She was very excited to go.”

Olmstead said Hannemann is a phenomenal athlete and has greatly improved since joining the team, especially with her decisions as setter.

As setter Hannemann has to make quick, last-minute decisions on ball placement: who to set the ball to, when to set it and where to set it. Olmstead said Hannemann knows her team well and has learned to make these decisions.

Hannemann’s skill shows in her ranking and impressive statistics. On Oct. 22, Hannemann was ranked No. 20 in the NCAA stats for assists per set with 11.36. She reached her career high of 57 assists during the Wichita State match on Aug. 31 and holds career highs of 17 digs, four kills and three service aces. Earlier this season, Hannemann was also named to the BYU Nike Invitational all-tournament team.

Standing at 5’8″ when most of her teammates average over 6′, Hannemann’s smaller size does not keep her from working hard. David Hannemann said maintaining a positive attitude despite different challenges was a defining moment for Hannemann in her career.

“Even though the girls she plays are talented, taller and expecting to win, Heather never gave up,” he said. “She was very hard working and very competitive.”

Senior middle blocker Nicole Warner agrees and said Hannemann is always working to help the team improve.

“I love Heather Hannemann,” Warner said. “She’s one of the sweetest girls ever. She’s always got a smile on her face, and she’s always willing to work hard for the team. No matter what, she can rally her teammates so well and just be like, ‘Guys we can play better,’ and she can demand more from her teammates as well.”

Hannemann is a great teammate on and off the court. Sophomore libero Tia Withers said Hannemann is willing to help out with anything.

“My freshman year she was always there,” Withers said. “She helped me move stuff in and out of my dorm, and she’s always willing to give people rides. She is always so supportive and very positive.”

With practices, matches and her helpful nature, Hannemann has learned to balance volleyball, a social life and full-time enrollment at BYU. Hannemann said it’s hard, but she does it by prioritizing her time.

Despite the challenges, Hannemann said she has no complaints and has never considered giving up.

“It definitely takes a toll on you, but when you organize and figure it all out, then it’s all worth it,” Hannemann said. “I would definitely redo it all over again.”

As the Cougars close out the season, Hannemann hopes to take the West Coast Conference title and said if the team does well, then she knows she has done her job.

Olmstead said that no matter what he is proud of Hannemann and knows she will excel in her future.

“She’s going to be tremendous in whatever she decides to do,” Olmstead said. “Whether that’s going into some sort of career or into marriage, she’s going to be wonderful. She’s the kind of kid that if you tell her no, she’s that much more motivated and she’s going to break down some of those barriers.”

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