Nick Wagner, Deseret News

13th-seeded BYU sweeps UNLV to advance to fifth-straight Sweet 16

By Sean Walker  |  Posted Dec 3rd, 2016 @ 10:28pm

12 photos


PROVO — BYU’s first set of the second round of the 2016 NCAA women’s volleyball tournament couldn’t have started out much worse.

UNLV jumped out to a 9-1 lead, and the Cougars were struggling to put together consistent offensive energy inside the packed Smith Fieldhouse.

Head coach Heather Olmstead needed a spark — and she found it in the laid-back demeanor of reserve setter Alohi Robins-Hardy.

Robins-Hardy dished out 46 assists and 12 digs off the bench, and Veronica Jones-Perry spiked 17 kills to lead the No. 13-seeded Cougars to a 25-23, 25-21, 25-12 sweep of UNLV, advancing to the Cougars’ fifth-straight regional semifinal Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.

“Alohi’s personality is calm,” senior Amy Boswell said of the team’s Hawaiian setter. “She’s laid back and a fantastic player; we practice with Lindie (Haddock, the starting setter who finished with one assist) and Alohi, and were very comfortable with both.

“It’s a calmer energy, and so laid back. It’s fun.”

Boswell put down 14 kills and two blocks for BYU (29-3), and Lacy Haddock supplied nine kills and six digs for the Cougars, who will face fourth-seeded Texas in the Austin regional semifinals after capturing two home sweeps over the Rebels and Princeton.

“We wanted to focus on the next touch, and figure out how to get back into the set,” Olmstead said. “The crowd gave us some momentum, and we started making some great plays. It’s a credit to them all season.”

Bree Hammel led UNLV (24-8) with 12 kills, including seven in the first set, when the Rebels jumped out to a 9-1 lead one night after stunning 22nd-ranked Utah in the tournament’s first round.

Photo: Nick Wagner, Deseret News

“Their defense was fantastic. It took a lot of us to mix up our shots and look for places on the court that were open,” Boswell said. “Volleyball is a game of runs, and some runs are going to be bigger than others. In the end, we just had to cut the run off and go on a run of our own.”

The tide changed, though, when Robins-Hardy subbed into the match and distributed 17 kills en route to a 25-23 comeback victory. BYU took its first lead of the set, 20-19, on a pair of kills from Danelle Parady-Stetler as part of a run of four-straight points to go up 22-19 before Jones-Perry’s set-clinching spike.

“I thought the big difference was they started setting the right sides a lot,” UNLV coach Cindy Fredrick said. “They took out the starting setter, which was huge. But the setter who came in did a fabulous job; she set that right side, ran things fast, and kept us on our heels.”

BYU didn’t overpower UNLV in the second set, but the Cougars used a combination of touch and technique to float several kills to the floor. Robins-Hardy and Boswell combined for a block to give BYU a 15-13 lead in a set neither team led by more than two before Jones-Perry’s floater give BYU a 19-16 advantage.

Boswell scored three of the final six points, and Parady-Stetler laid down a kill to give BYU a 20 advantage with a 25-21 victory in set two.

Parady-Stetler finished with seven kills as BYU used a touch-over-power offense that only forced four blocks to earn the win.

“We brought her into look off some blocks and try to get some kills,” Olmstead said of Parady-Stetler. “She brought a great energy, and I’m proud of her for staying focused on the task at hand.”

After BYU took a 2-0 lead into the locker-room break, the Cougars jumped out to an 8-2 lead on Boswell’s kill, and then took a 13-5 advantage on Jones-Perry’s spike to cruise to its second three-set victory in as many nights.

The Cougars’ five-season streak of advancing to at least the regional semifinals — volleyball’s version of the Sweet 16 — continued. It’s a streak that includes BYU’s run to the national championship match against Penn State in 2014.

“This is what our team is used to, and what we worked towards every year,” said Whitney Howard, who had eight kills. “I’m excited; it’ll be really fun.”


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