Provo • As the crowd at Smith Fieldhouse got louder Saturday, BYU’s blockers at the net seemed to get stronger.
By the end, the 12th-seeded Cougars were impassable, sweeping a determined but overmatched Oklahoma team 25-17, 25-21, 25-18 in the second round of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.
Jennifer Hamson and Nicole Warner didn’t block everything thrown their way by the Sooners, it just seemed that way.
It’s now on to Omaha, Neb., and a Friday date with No. 5 seed Oregon in the Sweet 16.
“The scores don’t show it, but I didn’t feel comfortable in that match,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We followed our game plan real well. Overall, it was a great volleyball match.”
Even Olmstead admitted that he gets caught up when his Cougars begin to throw back spike after spike. He isn’t the only one.
“We’re getting down, getting ready for this huge [Oklahoma] hit and out of nowhere Nicole blocks a ball straight down,” said Tia Withers, who imitated the crowd’s cheering sound. “It’s like, so great.”
Although BYU finished the three-set match with 20 blocks, it was in the third game that the Cougars put the hammer down.
As the Sooners (22-11) closed to within 12-10, the Cougars scored five of the next six points from their block to basically end the match.
This came just as Oklahoma coach Santiago Restrepo believed his team was about to claw its way back into things.
“[BYU] came out with a block, and then another block and another block,” Restrepo said with a rueful smile. “We were taking aggressive swings. We were taking good swings. We just couldn’t get it through the block.”
While it is easy to highlight the deeds of Hamson, who had 17 kills, and Warner, who blocked eight balls, BYU also received plenty of all-around good team play.
Setter Heather Hannemann not only served up 34 assists, but also added 14 digs to go with Withers’ 15 digs. Alexa Gray and Kimberly Dahl combined for 16 kills, while Kathryn LeCheminant provided a solid presence at the net with Hamson and Warner.
“Awesome,” said Hannemann to describe BYU’s block party. “When we got three blocks in a row, then we got the digs, it was like we were all in the zone.
“We were just one together.”
R The BYU women’s volleyball advances to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.
• BYU sweeps both opponents in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
• BYU’s Jennifer Hamson and Nicole Warner combine for 25 kills and 13 blocks Saturday.