Unseeded BYU continues run into semifinals, set for match against Texas
SEATTLE -- Alexa Gray led BYU to a sweep (25-21, 25-20, 25-21) against No. 14 Nebraska in Washington to advance to the program's second NCAA championship national semifinals.
"First of all, hats off to Nebraska for an outstanding season," BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. "Coach Cook has done an outstanding job over there. I can’t say enough about these kids. I don’t have the words to describe what these kids have done. I think Jen brought us here last night, so I think it’s fitting that the other girls stepped it up this match."
Gray led the Cougars with 11 kills on a .310 clip. Amy Boswell led the team in blocks with six while Ciara Parker added 15 digs. Alohi Robins-Hardy contributed 33 assists and 15 digs. Additionally, Tambre Nobles had double-digit kills with 10.
BYU (29-4) got the first set started against Nebraska (23-10) with a block from Whitney Young and Jennifer Hamson. The Huskers weren't shaken as they then went on a 6-2 run to give them the edge early on. The Cougars battled back, however, to retake the lead at 12-11 with a Nobles kill. The score was then tied at every point until a Nebraska attack error put BYU up by two at 20-18, forcing a Husker timeout. With the Cougars up by four at 22-18, Nebraska quickly scored two points to come within two at 22-20. A Hamson service ace brought set point for BYU at 24-20 before a Boswell and Robins-Hardy block closed out the set 25-21 for the Cougars.
The Huskers opened the second set on a 3-1 run guided by a pair of kills from the Rolfzen sisters. BYU was then able to rally back and take an 8-5 advantage, capped off by a Boswell kill. Nebraksa took its second timeout of the set after a Boswell and Nobles block gave the Cougars a 14-10 advantage. The Huskers then scored four consecutive points, with help from three BYU errors, to tie things up at 14. Points were traded back and forth after that until a 6-1 Cougar rally–including four Gray kills–put BYU back up by four at 22-18. The Cougars stayed strong to finish the set 25-20 on a Boswell and Hamson block.
After the intermission, a Nobles kill helped BYU to come out to a 4-2 lead early in the third set. Nebraska was able to bridge the gap, though, taking a 9-8 edge after a block. The Huskers were forced to take their first timeout of the set with the Cougars ahead 14-11 after a Boswell kill capped off a 5-1 BYU run. A Hamson kill then finished a 4-1 rally for the Cougars that kept them ahead 19-14 in the set. Nebraska followed with a 4-1 run of its own to come back within two at 20-18. BYU finished the set strong, ending 25-21 on another Gray kill.
Hamson was named the Most Oustanding Player of the All-Region Team with Gray and Boswell also making the list for the Cougars. Kadie Rolfzen and Mary Pollmiller of Nebraska, Krista Vansant of Washington and Nicole Walch of Florida State also made the team.
The Cougars last played in the national semifinals in 1993. BYU will face No. 2 Texas on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.