In November of 2010, nobody could have guessed that the Cougars would field a top 10 team in women's volleyball. After a disappointing season with a sub-.500 record for the Cougars, everyone knew that something had to change. One of those changes included handing of the keys of the program to Head Coach Shawn Olmstead. Olmstead immediately made his mark after moving from assistant to head coach by posting a 21-9 record in his first year.
In 2012, the Cougars made further strides as they ended the season 28-4, made it to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament and ended the season ranked 12th in the country. Even after winning WCC Coach of the year award in 2012, he may have presented his best work when he led his team to a 24-7 record in 2013 without the benefits of start player Jennifer Hamson. The Cougars again made it to the round of sixteen and ended the season with loss to 6th ranked USC. Even with the loss the Cougars ended the season ranked 13th in the country.
This year the Cougars have earned the respect of the volleyball community and are entering the season ranked 9th, while only losing three seniors. This year could be another special year as they face a number of strong teams throughout the year, including a possible top 10 matchup for their home-opener against 4th ranked Washington.
The Cougars bring back most of their team from a year ago and have the benefit of Hamson back on the court after redshirting last year to focus on basketball. Of the three missing seniors, the biggest hit comes from the lone starter Kathryn Lecheminant. Lecheminant was named to the WCC all-conference first team as a middle blocker and 331.5 points which was a career high. Each year she progressed and she finished her senior year with 241 kills that will need to be replaced this year. So who will step up for the Cougars?
From early spring games and practices it appears that the Cougars are in good hands. Junior outside hitter Alexa Gray is looking to have another great year as she builds on her 2013 campaign. As a freshman, she was named as the WCC Freshman of the Year before earning numerous all-tournament team honors in 2013. Gray was named to the First Team All-WCC with Lecheminant as well in 2013. She led the team in spring with 27 kills, so we can reasonably expect good things this year.
Hamson returns after a redshirt year where she focused on basketball and is looking to go out with a bang in her senior year. In 2012, Hamson led the Cougars to the NCAA tournament as she garnered multiple honors both in and out of the Conference. Being named WCC player of the year helped solidify her legacy with the Cougars. The incredible 458 kills she had in her junior year should put fear into the opponents and combined with her ability to block (141, 2nd on team) should make her a player that can take the Cougars deep into the tournament. In one match this spring, she had 15 kills, giving the fans a preview of what is to come.
Amy Boswell and Whitney Young
Sophomore Amy Boswell and sophomore Whitney Young may replace Lecheminant by committee. Both players are coming in after having a number of starts as a freshman, Boswell with eight and Young with 23, and having learned from the best. Young led the team in blocks with an average of 1.53 per set while Boswell showed off her balance with 59 kills and 46 blocks.
One more name to keep an eye out for is senior outside hitter Tambre Nobles. After transferring from Northern Colorado, Nobles started in every match for the Cougars last year and had the second highest digs total (329) on the team. Along with leading the team in double-doubles (18) she was named to the All-WCC Honorable Mention team.
With another strong team and some promising replacements for the missing pieces, the Cougars could have another sensational year as the team continues to progress this fall. The return of Hamson is a tremendous boost to the Cougars, but the experience gained by others is invaluable. Look for the team to start off strong and represent the school as another top tier team out of Provo.
The first game is slated for August 29th against West Virginia in the Gold & Blue Players Challenge held in Morgantown, WV at 5 pm MDT. The Cougars will then play their first home game on the 5th of September against 4th ranked Washington at 7pm MDT in the Smith Fieldhouse. Make sure you get your tickets early so you can see this potential top 10 match-up!
Don't miss your first chance to see the team as they play the Blue-White game at 1 pm on August 23rd in the Smith Fieldhouse!