Boise State women’s volleyball rallies as the No. 6 seed to win the Mountain West Championship

Boise State women's volleyball
Photo by Claire Keener

Game One: Boise State vs San Jose State

The Boise State women’s volleyball team rallied their way through the Mountain West (MW) Conference tournament Nov. 24-26 in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the No. 6 seed to win the championship title. 

After a 21-10 overall and 10-8 conference record, this was the lowest seed in MW history to win the championship, and the first conference championship in program history.

On Nov. 24, the Broncos opened the tournament with a match against the San Jose State Spartans on Wednesday.

Boise State lost to San Jose twice in the regular season, but during this matchup, the Broncos swept the Spartans 25-20, 25-18 and 25-22 to advance to the semi-finals against Utah State. 

The Broncos outhit the Spartans .277 percent to .170 percent. That match had 28 ties and 15 lead changes. 

Boise State women's volleyball
[Photo of freshman middle blocker Paige Bartsch (21) at the most recent home game against New Mexico on Nov. 4]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

Graduate student middle blocker Alli O’Harra led the charge for the Broncos hitting at a conference tournament school record of .833 percent, with 10 kills, no errors on 12 attacks, five block assists and finished with 12.5 points. 

Freshman middle blocker Paige Bartsch — the 2021 MW Freshman of the year — trailed behind O’Harra with a hitting percentage of .368 for nine kills, three service aces, three digs and seven block assists to finish with a team best of 15.5 points. 

Senior setter Danielle Boss — a 2021 All-MW Member — recorded her 14th double-double of the season with a team high of 31 assists and 10 digs. Junior libero Allison Casillas matched Boss’ dig total to tie for the team high on defense. 

“I was excited about the way the team came out really focused with great energy right from the start and was able to sustain that high level throughout the match,” said head coach Shawn Garus. “I thought that our middle attack was great, both Alli [O’Harra] and Alyssa [Wissinger] scored at critical times for us. Paige Bartsch had a great match both blocking and hitting. The win sets up an opportunity in the semis against a very good Utah State team, which our girls respect a lot and we expect to battle with tomorrow.”

With this win, the Broncos headed to the semi-finals to take on the Aggies from Utah State on Thursday, Nov. 25. 

Game Two: Boise State vs. Utah State

Boise State rallied from a set down to beat Utah State in four sets and earn a spot in the Mountain West Championship. The Broncos struggled in the first set but came back to win the match 16-25, 25-17, 25-10 and 27-25. 

The Broncos picked up the match with a balanced offensive attack with five players recording seven or more kills. Boise State outhit Utah State with a .275 percent compared to .134 percent. 

Down one set, the Broncos dominated the next two sets, beating Utah State by eight points in the second set and 15 in the third. 

“I’m really pleased with how the team responded after falling behind a set,” Garus said. “I think the team did a really good job of regrouping and playing together in the final three sets. Lauren [Ohlinger] really stepped it up when we needed her. Overall, this was a team win, a lot of people contributed today against a really good Utah State team who had an outstanding year. But we have played two matches in two days, we will take it easy tonight to recoup and rest, so we are ready for tomorrow’s championship match.”

Junior outside hitter Lauren Ohlinger — a 2021 All-MW Honoree — led the Broncos with a team high of 20.5 points. She also recorded a double-double with a team high of 18 kills, 10 digs, two solo blocks and one block assist all while hitting at .302 percent. 

Bartsch followed with 16.5 points on 11 kills, three service aces, two solo blocks and one block assist. 

Finishing out on offense was freshman outside hitter Jordan Miller with nine kills and hitting at .381 percent, redshirt junior middle blocker Alyssa Wissinger with seven kills and three blocks and O’Harra adding seven kills and four blocks.

Boss recorded her second double-double of the tournament with 44 assists and 15 digs. She also tallied three kills, one service ace and a team best of five blocks, one solo. Casillas tied Boss for the team high on digs with 15 of her own.

The Broncos improved 23-10 overall which is tied for the sixth-most wins in program history. 

Next, Boise State took on the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) for the championship title on Friday, Nov. 26. 

Game Three: Boise State vs UNLV 

Boise State clinched their way to the NCAA Championship with a four-set victory over the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Losing the first set (19-25), the Broncos fought their way back to win the second (25-21), third (25-23) and fourth (25-15) sets. 

This championship is also the first conference tournament title in program history. The victory improved the Broncos to 24-10 overall, tied for the third-most all-time.

Four Broncos earned MW All-Tournament Team honors. These athletes included Boss, Casillas, Bartsch and Ohlinger, who was also named the championship MVP.

Bartsch led the Broncos with a team high of 17 points and 14 kills, both of which were career highs. She also had one service ace, one solo block and two block assists. 

O’Harra followed with 15.5 points on 11 kills, team-high three service aces and three block assists.

After Boise State lost the first set, the Broncos regrouped heading into the second. Although they trailed in the beginning, the team went on a 7-0 run and never trailed the rest of the set. 

The third set was a battle with 17 ties and 10 lead changes. With the score tied at 22, the Broncos finished the set off with a 3-1 run over the Rebels. 

Boise State took full charge in the fourth set, securing their win over the reigning Mountain West Champions of UNLV. 

“I am just excited how our team played all week here in Las Vegas,” said head coach Shawn Garus. “After we dropped the opening set there was no panic, no stress, just leadership from our side. I’m so proud. So proud of the upperclassmen for building the confidence in this group.”
The Broncos will play No. 11 seed Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on
Dec. 3 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.