No. 11 BYU women’s volleyball had 16 team blocks in a 3-0 sweep of Gonzaga (25-22, 25-17, 25-13) on Thursday night at the Smith Fieldhouse to begin West Coast Conference play.
“A lot of credit to [Gonzaga],” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “They played well at the start of that first set and kind of put us on our heels. I was impressed with our composure to be able to be down five or six points in the first set and just kind of whittle away. Little by little we got back in control of the match. And our block, once it got going, kind of turned the match.”
This was the first match of WCC competition for BYU (10-2, 1-0 WCC) and Gonzaga (9-3, 0-1). The Bulldogs are off to their best start in school history, while the Cougars are picked to win the WCC title.
Sophomore middle blockers Whitney Young and Amy Boswell led the blocking effort with eight and seven, respectively. Junior Alexa Gray led the offensive attack with 11 kills, six coming from the second set alone, along with four blocks. Senior Jennifer Hamson had 10 kills and six blocks on the night. Junior setter Camry Godfrey Willardson had 30 assists and three blocks. Ciara Parker had a team-high 14 digs in the win.
Gonzaga came out strong, keeping the lead for the majority of the first set. The Bulldogs had 15 kills in the set, whereas the Cougars had just nine. After a kill from the Bulldogs' McKayla Ferris, Gonzaga was up 10-5, forcing BYU to call its first timeout. Gonzaga fought back to keep the lead until BYU went on a 4-0 run to go up 19-16, its biggest lead of the set. A great dig by Bulldog libero Morgan Douglass, who had a match-high 17 digs, set up Lauren Joseph for the kill to give Gonzaga the 21-20 lead. But BYU came storming back behind a kill from Gray and an ace from Willardson. The tough blocking duo of Hamson and Young won the first set for BYU, 25-22.
The beginning of the second set was back and forth between the two teams until Tambre Nobles slammed it down the line to boost the Cougars. An ace from Hamson put a cap on a 3-0 rally to put BYU up 7-4. The Bulldogs put together their own 3-0 run until Young got a kill on the line to hold them off. Stuff blocks from Hamson, Boswell and Willardson kept the Cougars powering past the Bulldogs. A couple of kills from Gray put BYU at set point, 24-15. Hamson powered through the Gonzaga block for the kill and the 25-17 second set victory.
BYU came out swinging in the third set. A quick attack from Boswell got the kill to give BYU the 4-2 lead. The Cougars went on a 5-0 run, led off by another line shot from Nobles. The majority of Nobles’ eight kills were slammed down the line during the match. BYU had 10 blocks in the third set, four of them coming from Hamson and Young in a 5-0 run that put the Cougars up 17-8. BYU won the third set and the match, 25-13, after Young and Godfrey got another stuff block on the outside.
The Cougars continue conference play at home Saturday at 1 p.m. MDT, when they face off against Portland. Links to live stats and a video stream can be found on the BYU women's volleyball schedule page.