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Strength at net carries BYU women's volleyball team in NCAA Tournament

Published December 4, 2012 3:09 pm

BYU volleyball • The Cougars will face Oregon for a spot in the Sweet 16.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Santiago Restrepo, maybe more than anyone at this time of the year in women's volleyball, has insight into what type of team BYU brings to the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.

Moments after the Cougars dispatched Oklahoma in three games to move into the third round Saturday, the Sooners' coach thought for a second or two before comparing 12-seeded BYU (27-3) to No. 3 seed Texas.

"They're pretty tall and physical, and BYU is pretty tall and physical," Restrepo said. "They are very athletic at every single position, and BYU is very good at every single position. They're certainly very athletic. They also play very good defense, not only on the block, but behind the block. So it is extremely tough to put the shot away."

Quite a review from someone in a position to know.

BYU and Texas won't meet in the tournament unless both make it to the Final Four. For that to happen, the Cougars must first find a way around No. 5-seeded Oregon (26-4) at 3 p.m. (MST) Friday in the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

The winner will advance against either No. 13 Washington or No. 4 Nebraska on Saturday.

At the moment, BYU is playing its best volleyball, having swept both NCAA opponents, albeit in the comfort of the Smith Fieldhouse. The deep and versatile Cougars are 6-0 at neutral sites this season.

BYU's most obvious strength is at the net. The Cougars, led by Jennifer Hamson and Nicole Warner, are among the nation's best blocking teams, and they highlighted that skill against Oklahoma.

That dominance can translate quickly to the offense, where setter Heather Hannemann has a plethora of weapons at her disposal. Hamson was dynamite with 17 kills, and Warner, Alexa Gray and Kimberly Dahl each added eight kills. Kathryn LeCheminant added five.

"We have powerful hitters on this team, so it makes my job pretty easy," said Hannemann, who had 34 assists in the three-game sweep. "Even if I didn't make the right decision as to who to set, I am confident that all our hitters will put the ball down. We have great passers, and that allows us to have a great offense." —