BYU Falls in Volleyball National Championship Match


The Cinderella run for the BYU Cougars finally ended on Saturday when they were swept 3-0 by Penn State in the championship match of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament. The Nittany Lions continued their dynasty by securing their second straight championship and seventh in the past nine years. The Cougars meanwhile fall to 0-1 in national championship matches after their first visit to the final match. Their only other appearance this deep in the postseason was a loss in the Final Four back in 1992.

The Cougars went on a Cinderella run after reaching the NCAA Tournament with the automatic bid that comes with winning the West Coast Conference. They used their superior athleticism and aggressiveness as they made it look surprisingly easy rolling through upset after upset. They swept Seton Hall in the opening round before upsetting #11 Arizona, #6 Florida, and #14 Nebraska to reach the Final Four. They then upset #2 Texas to set up a match with #5 Penn State who had upset #1 Stanford on the other side of the bracket.

In the title match, the Cougars looked strong a built leads in both of the first two games. But the Nittany Lions showed their talent and clawed back into each game. Even with AVCA Player of the Year Micha Hancock struggling, the Nittany Lions pulled out tight 25-21 and 26-24 wins in the first two games. They then put the match away with a more dominant 25-14 victory in game three to complete the sweep. Megan Courtney and Aiyana Whitney led the way with 11 kills each.

Jennifer Hamson led the way for the Cougars with a match-high 14 kills. WCC Player of the Year Alexa Gray was also strong with 9 kills. Both teams were fairly even on blocks and digs, so the difference came down to attack percentage. Hamson was a good example. Even though she had 14 kills, it was on a whopping 42 attempts for a just .071 percentage. The Cougars hit at a .134 clip compared to .233 for Penn State.

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Still, the Cougars can hold their heads high after one of the greatest seasons by any WCC team in any sport. After spending much of the season nationally ranked and cruising to the WCC Championship, they put the conference on the map with their postseason run. They had three All-Americans including Hamson being named First-Team All-American, and Head Coach Shawn Olmstead was named AVCA Coach of the Year.

After tangling with the San Diego Toreros their first few years in the conference, the Cougars have officially taken over as one of the best teams in any sport in the West Coast Conference. And that will likely continue into next season. Two of their three All-Americans will be back which will go a long way to helping make up for the loss of Hamson. Combined with what will be strong recruiting classes after this nationally recognized run, and the Cougars should be riding the success of this season for years to come.