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BY-Who?

Well, someone had to crash this party, and why not the Cougars?

After a weekend in which we said goodbye to the college careers of some fantastic seniors, all of whom had eyes on Oklahoma City, three of the usual suspects are back into the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championships.

Texas plays the aforementioned BYU, the upstart from the West Coast Conference, an unseeded team making the school’s first final-four appearance since 1993.

And, on the other side of the bracket, ho-hum, another gripping, every-play-counts, cover-your-head and look-out-below matchup between Penn State and Stanford.

In this case, been-there done-that never gets boring. What’s more, it keeps alive the storyline that puts Penn State super senior setter Micha Hancock playing for it all just 15 miles from her hometown of Edmond, and Stanford’s remarkable middle Inky Ajanaku just more than 100 miles from her home of Tulsa.

Start with BYU (29-4), the school from Provo, Utah, that has had tremendous men’s volleyball success in recent years, but hadn’t been this far in the women’s tournament in 21 years. A lot of its success this year has to do with Jennifer Hamson, at 6-foot-7 a heck of a story by herself.

In 2012 Hamson was the WCC Player of the Year and an All-American. But last year, she took the volleyball season off to concentrate on her final season of basketball. Now, in her redshirt senior season, she is, quite simply, a wrecking crew. In BYU’s victory stunning three-set victory over Nebraska, Hamson had nine kills in 38 swings—they’re not afraid to set her—eight digs, and four blocks. The night before, when BYU knocked off Florida State, Hamson had a whopping 30 kills in 63—yes, 63—attack attempts and hit .397. She also had 10 digs and five blocks.

Not that she’s alone. Against Nebraska, 6’0″ outside hitter Tambre Nobles had 10 kills in 34 swings, and All-American Alexa Gray 11 in 29.

Afterward, BYU coach Shawn Olmstead was giddy, having to compose himself just to execute the post-match handshake with Nebraska counterpart John Cook.

“This is what I said before the match. I knew Penn State was in, Texas was in, and Stanford was up big,” Olmstead said.

“I told the girls: ‘Penn State, Stanford, Texas. Who does everybody think is going to win this match? Nebraska. Nebraska is the fourth name that everyone out there is going to think will win.’

“The girls just jumped out of their seats and got fired up,” said Olmstead. “And they played that way. They weren’t just going to lay down and die. Those kids just went after it.”

 

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