BYU women’s volleyball looks to build on its success from last season as the Cougars prepare for another challenging schedule in 2018.
Last year, BYU finished 30-3 and 17-1 in West Coast Conference play with a No. 9 final national ranking. The Cougars collected their fourth-straight WCC title and advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the sixth-straight season.
BYU returns several players who had time in the starting lineup at one point last season, including Mary Lake, Lyndie Haddock-Eppich, Lacy Haddock, Sydnie Martindale, McKenna Miller, Roni Jones-Perry, Kennedy Eschenberg, Danelle Stetler, Taylen Ballard and Sara Hamson.
New to this year’s roster are freshmen Heather Gneiting, Whitney McEwan, Madi Robinson and Tayler Tausinga. Also new to the team is junior college transfer Riley Lyman.
The Cougars are ranked No. 8 in the AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. BYU was unanimously picked to finish first in the All-WCC Preseason Poll. The Cougars had five players make the All-WCC Preseason Team: Eschenberg, Haddock-Eppick, Lake, Miller and Jones-Perry.
Breakdown by position
BYU returns the reigning WCC Freshman of the Year in Eschenberg for 2018. She collected 150 blocks (1.27 blocks per set) last season.
Sophomore Allison Stapleton, who switched over to middle blocker this season, will compete for playing time with newcomers Gneiting and McEwan at the other spot. Emily Lewis-Bushman may also be on the court in a blocking capacity being listed as both a middle blocker and an opposite.
Jones-Perry and Miller highlight the returning outside hitters as both started the majority of matches last season. In 2017, Jones-Perry, the NCAA’s leading returner in kills, collected 569 kills to go with a team-best 41 aces and 180 digs. Miller contributed 352 kills, 70 digs and 51 blocks.
Ballard also returns having collected 48 kills on a team-best .351 clip last year before a season-ending injury cut her playing time short. Haddock and Stetler return for their senior seasons at outside. Haddock had 64 kills, 38 digs and 35 blocks in 2018 to complement Stetler’s 67 kills and 123 digs.
Newcomers Lyman and Robinson will also compete for playing time at outside.
BYU only has two true opposites listed on the roster in 2018 – Hamson and Emily Lewis-Bushman. However, last season several outside hitters took time competing on the court in the position, including Ballard, Haddock and Stetler.
The Cougars return their three-year veteran setter Haddock-Eppich in 2018. She’s the WCC’s leading assist returner, having collected 1,139 total a season ago. She also had the second-most digs on the squad with 230.
Kiani Moea’i and freshman Tausinga will both work for time on the court.
BYU will benefit from a very experienced backcourt in 2018, led by reigning WCC Defender of the Year Lake. She posted 533 total digs for a 4.52 digs per set average last season – second best in each category in BYU rally-scoring era history.
Defensive specialist Martindale also returns having started in all but one match last year. She collected 184 digs for a 1.60 digs per set average.
BYU launches the 2018 season on the road, traveling to Duke for back-to-back matches on Aug. 24-25.
The Cougars then head home to the Smith Fieldhouse to host West Virginia, Stanford and Wichita State in the BYU Nike Invitational.
The team hits the road from Sept. 7-8, for the Marquette Tournament, where it will face USC, Syracuse and Marquette.
BYU follows that invitational by hosting Utah in the Deseret First Duel on Sept. 13. The Cougars finish up non-conference play traveling to Weber State for another in-state matchup on Sept. 15.
During conference play, BYU will face nine extremely competitive squads, including San Diego, which split the regular-season series with the Cougars last year.
League play starts at home on Sept. 20, against Pacific, and it concludes with a road match against Loyola Marymount on Nov. 20.