OKLAHOMA CITY -- BYU proved a little too tall for second-seeded Texas and senior All-American Jennifer Hamson, proved the tallest of them all.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead in sets in the first of two semifinals at the 2014 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships, BYU looked to their most reliable player and she delivered like she has so many times in her career. Tied at 24 in the fourth set, Hamson, who flies around the court with her 6-foot-7-inch frame, went high into the Chesapeake Energy Center air and delivered a spike that appeared to sail long. Officials ruled UT defenders had touched the ball, however, and the unseeded Cougars had a match point.Moments later Hamson again went high into the air and fittingly pounded a spike off the outstretched arms of Longhorns blockers. A wild celebration engulfed perhaps the best two-sport star in BYU athletics history.
For the uninitiated in Brigham Young sports, Hamson, who redshirted during the volleyball season in 2013, focused on basketball and led the Cougar women’s team to the Sweet 16. The talented Lindon, Utah, native was all volleyball on Thursday, finishing with a game-high 22 kills.
“Honestly, I just wanted to make sure I swing high because I kind of got blocked that first time,” the exercise science major said. “I just went a little bit higher and caught [the UT defender’s] hands.”
Hamson was quick to deflect praise, as usual, focusing on her teammates that she watched improve during the season away from volleyball. Entering this season she knew this team could make a deep run into the tournament.
That Hamson provided another big-time performance certainly is not a surprise to head coach Shawn Olmstead. For the third time in the NCAA Tournament, Hamson recorded a double-double (10 digs to go with her 22 kills.)
“I saw a look in Jen’s eyes in that Arizona match, like, ‘Hey, give me the ball. I will take this thing away,’” Olmstead said before the tournament. “I believe that is because Jen has been to three [Sweet 16s], if you include a basketball one in there –- two volleyball, one basketball. She wants to go further, and so great teams have those players that feed off of that and really want more.”
Hamson and fellow All-American Alexa Gray dominated play in sets 1 and 2, combining for 24 kills (12 each). Gray totaled 19 kills overall, but most of the night setter Alohi Robins-Hardy looked for Hamson. Robins-Hardy totaled 54 assists – Hamson finished with 54 total attacks, hitting a respectable .241. Hamson was also a part of a group of blockers that held UT to .162 hitting.
Fans of the game will be treated to one more night of volleyball from Hamson before she makes a very big decision. The Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA drafted her last summer, while there is also talk of Hamson trying out for the 2015 U.S. national volleyball team.
For the next two days at-least, its 100-percent volleyball as the Cougars attempt to shock another big-time program on Saturday.
“There’s not enough words to describe that kid,” Olmstead said. “And just what she’s done for the school; what she’s done for the sport of basketball, the sport of volleyball, the conference, everything. I mean, the kid’s been an outstanding representative. What she’s done, taking a basketball program first and then basketball, then back here, miss a year and then be back here. She doesn’t want her college volleyball career to end. There’s no doubt about that.
“What she decides after this, I have no idea. And I don’t ask her.”
Not since 1998 when Long Beach State beat Penn State for the title has a team outside the Pac-12, Big Ten, or Big 12 hoisted the trophy at the end of the tournament.