Omaha, Neb. • There was a day when BYU dominated the series in women’s volleyball against the University of Oregon. In Friday’s Omaha NCAA regional semifinal at CenturyLink Center, the Cougars proved they’re not far from returning to those bygone days.
In four sets, the Ducks (28-4), with their highest-ever NCAA seeding at No. 5, defeated the Cougars, 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 22-25, 25-12) for the first time since 1975 and only the second time in their 11 meetings. This was their first match against each other since 1988.
“I believe we have the team to compete with these guys. We’ve believed that all year,” said Shawn Olmstead, the fifth-year coach of the Cougars (28-4). “We’ve shown some pretty good consistency all season. Unfortunately, [in] this match we came up a little short.”
Olmstead guided the Cougars to their first NCAA berth since he arrived after the 2007 season.
“I remember when Shawn took the job. I was just ready to do what we can to put the program to back where it was,” said senior setter Heather Hannemann of Alpine. “Looking back to before the season started at our goals and to see what we accomplished is really fantastic.”
It wasn’t a good sign in the opening set when BYU, ranked second nationally behind Texas in hitting percentage (.313), hit .500 and still lost the set. For the match, the Cougars hit at .259.
Oregon didn’t grab a lead in the first set until the team managed a 11-10 advantage, but neither team was able to lead by more than three points in that set. The Ducks, with the help of an ace by freshman Kimberly Dahl that gave them the lead for good in that set, closed out the tightly contested set with a 4-2 run.
Trailing 2-0, BYU attempted to climb back with the help of 6-foot-7 opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson, the WCC Player of the Year. She finished the match with 18 kills in 44 swings (.444) to pace the Cougars.
Hamson, a junior from Pleasant Grove High School in Lindon, provided the knockout punch when the Cougars desperately needed some life in the match. The Ducks, after trailing BYU 19-12 in the third set, put together a furious run that allowed them to hang close down the stretch. With the Ducks closing to within one point, 22-21, Hamson went to work by coming up with kills for BYU’s final three points.
But it seemed as though the Cougars expended all their energy in that set, as the Ducks opened the fourth set with a 9-2 run and maintained control for the rest of the match.
“You try to carry the momentum that you have onto the next set, but sometimes things don’t always go your way,” said Hamson.