BYU volleyball: Cougars advance to second round of tournament in five-set thriller

By Royce Hinton

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Dec. 6 2013 11:44 p.m. MST

HONOLULU – Alexa Gray led BYU women’s volleyball to a thrilling five-set (21-25, 25-22, 25-17, 24-26, 15-10) victory over Arizona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Honolulu on Friday.

“First off, congratulations to Arizona State on a great match,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “I’m really excited for our kids. They showed unreal heart and fight tonight. To fight from losing that fourth set shows what they are made of. Our block helped turn the match, along with Ciara (Parker) digging a ton of shots. It was a true team effort tonight.”

Gray led the team with a career-high 27 kills on 72 attempts to hit a .250 clip, while adding four blocks. Sophomore Camry Godfrey had a match-high 61 assists, and sophomore libero Ciara Parker contributed a career-high 34 digs in the win. Freshman Whitney Young helped defensively by leading the team with eight blocks. Tambre Haddock added a double-double of 18 kills and 12 digs in the victory.

The decisive fifth set began for BYU (23-6, 15-3 West Coast Conference) with a trio of kills from Gray to keep the score close at 3-2. Young and Haddock each contributed a pair of kills to give the Cougars the 7-5 advantage and force an Arizona State (19-14, 8-12 Pac-12) timeout. Following the break, BYU went on a 4-1 run to take an 11-6 lead after a Hannah Robison ace. The Cougars maintained their lead and finished the set and match, 15-10, with a Young and Jessica Jardine block.

Gray and Kathryn LeCheminant got the first points on the board in the first set with a block. Arizona State then jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead from multiple Cougar attack errors. Olmstead was forced to call a timeout after a 4-1 run gave the Sun Devils a 13-8 advantage. BYU slowed ASU's momentum with a 6-2 run, led by a trio of Young and Godfrey blocks, to come within a point of Arizona State at 21-20. In the end, the Cougars couldn’t stop the Sun Devils’ offensive attack as Arizona State took set one, 25-21.

The second set began with both sides trading points. The score remained within a point until a Whitney Follette kill gave the Sun Devils a 6-4 lead. Haddock gave BYU a service ace in the comeback effort to make things even at 9-9. The Cougars tied the second set two additional times before taking their first lead at 17-16. The score was tied again from points 17 to 21, at which point BYU went on a 4-1 rally to take the set, 25-22, on a LeCheminant kill.

A strong showing from Gray began the third set and put the Cougars ahead, 6-2, before a 5-1 rally from Arizona State tied things up at 7-7. That was quickly countered by an 8-1 BYU run that extended the Cougar lead to 15-8. BYU continued to maintain at least a four-point lead through the rest of the set as it cruised to a 25-17 set-three victory completed with a block by a trio of Cougars.

Following a dominant third-set performance, BYU opened up the fourth set at 8-3. Haddock led the way as the Sun Devils had a hard time finding an answer to the Cougars, trailing 14-8. It wasn’t until a 4-1 rally that Arizona State was able to come back within two at 18-16 and then again at 22-20. After tying the set at 22 and 24, the Sun Devils took their first lead of the set a point later and then closed it out 26-24, taking the match to a fifth and final set.

The Cougars advance to the second round of the tournament, where they will face the winner of No. 11 Hawaii and Idaho State. The match will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. HST. Links to live video and stats feeds will be available on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.

Royce Hinton is the women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.

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