The BYU women’s volleyball season is coming to a close. The Cougars have had an incredible rally. The team has won every home game this season and lost to only three teams. They are nationally ranked and expect to be a big contender for the National Championship.
Much of the team’s success can be attributed to the contributions of the seniors. Alexa Gray, Camry Godfrey Willardson and Ciara Parker have fought hard, led the team to success and will be sorely missed as this is their last and final season.
“They’ve had a significant impact on the tradition of BYU and us doing as well as we have,” head coach Heather Olmstead said. “They mean a lot to this program and to BYU. We’re going to miss them and we appreciate all they’ve done for us.”
Outside hitter Gray has been a force to be reckoned with since she joined the BYU women’s volleyball team in 2012. She has made over 1,700 kills and over 300 blocks since her freshman year. Gray has scored nearly 2,000 points for the Cougars over the course of her volleyball career.
According to Olmstead, Gray is not only highly competitive and a tremendous leader, she is also a happy, genuine and hard-working person. Gray received her first national weekly honor on Nov. 17 and has been named WCC Player of the Week multiple times this season.
“She’s a humble kid that just wants to get better,” Olmstead said. “She’s more humble than people would think with how gifted she is, but she works hard and wants to get better.”
Gray will graduate in April and hopes to play overseas on an international volleyball team. She said she feels that her time at BYU has helped her to grow as a person. Her teammates have been great contributors in helping Gray.
“I think that’s really helped me be a better person by learning from them,” Gray said. “My team, they’re just amazing. I can’t imagine doing this for four years with anybody else.”
Teammates have looked up to and listened to Parker as soon as she became a part of the Cougar family in 2012. Parker grew up around volleyball and her experience helped BYU with their success. She plans on continuing her volleyball career and joining a professional volleyball team overseas following graduation in April.
“She’s crucial to our success,” Olmstead said. “She broke the all-time dig record and she’s just rolling with that. She’s a humble kid as well. She’s just doing her thing and knows that when she plays well, she’s helping her team.”
Parker has protected the back court as one of the team’s defensive specialists and liberos. She’s made over 1,600 digs and and over 400 assists during her time at BYU. Parker’s success in passes and digs have laid a foundation for the success of her teammates.
What Parker has enjoyed the most about BYU is her teammates. They have become her best friends and second family. Playing volleyball was wonderful, but Parker can’t imagine her BYU experience without them. She was originally nervous about coming to BYU, but is full of gratitude as her journey comes to a close.
“I just want to say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity I had to come and be a part of something special,” Parker said. “As a non-member (of the LDS Church), I was kind of scared at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Camry Godfrey Willardson
Setter Willardson transferred from Salt Lake Community College and joined the BYU women’s volleyball team in 2013. Willardson was a leader for the Cougars from the beginning.
“The girls look to her on the court for leadership,” Olmstead said. “She’s super competitive; she’s probably one of the most competitive ones we have on the team. She wants to win and she wants to encourage other players on our team as well along the way.”
Willardson is vocal on the court and understands set distribution among her teammates which has been key to her success as a setter. She’s made nearly 3,000 set assists, over 600 digs and over 200 blocks during her three years at BYU.
What Willardson has enjoyed most about BYU has been her teammates and the culture BYU offers. She feels that her time at BYU has been full of ups and downs. She’s had to work through hard and challenging times, but now sees the reward and success from it. Willardson said that’s been her story at BYU.
“I think you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to,” Willardson said. “When I was younger, I set my mind to play Division I volleyball and I’m here and now it’s almost over. I just think work hard and always believe in yourself because there’s going to be trials that come and struggles that you have, but if you believe in yourself, you can get through anything.”