Alexa Gray led No. 11 BYU women’s volleyball past No. 7 North Carolina in four sets (25-27, 25-19, 25-17, 26-24) Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center.
“That was a great match to be a part of — especially for some of the players that don't have a lot of experience,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “I loved our competitiveness and our fight at the end of the match.”
Gray led the way in the BYU effort with 22 kills, seven digs and four blocks. Ciara Parker added a team-high 18 digs while Amy Boswell contributed eight blocks. Camry Godfrey Willardson had 39 assists to lead the team in that category. Boswell and Whitney Young Howard each hit .400 clips, and Veronica Jones had five kills and four blocks in the Cougar win.
Cosy Burnett started the first set for BYU (2-0) with a line-drive kill. Despite the Cougars going up 6-3 early, North Carolina (0-2) was able to get back within a point at 7-6. A Gray kill then followed a lengthy rally that extended BYU’s advantage to four at 12-8. The Tar Heels took their first timeout of the set after a net violation gave the Cougars a six-point lead at 18-12. After the break, North Carolina used a 4-1 run to get back within three, down 19-16. Willardson then scored a pair of points from dump kills to give BYU a 23-18 advantage. The Tar Heels followed by using a 6-1 run to tie the set at 24-all before taking it 27-25 on their first set point.
The Cougars went up 5-3 early in the second set after a roll-shot kill from Gray. A solo block from Jones then kept BYU up by two at 9-7. Gray hammered in several more kills from there to help extended the Cougars’ lead to five at 13-8. After a bad North Carolina set, BYU went up 17-11, forcing a Tar Heel timeout. The Cougars maintained their lead at 22-15 after a Howard block before eventually taking the set 25-19 on a North Carolina attack error.
A kill and block from Boswell helped BYU go up 3-2 early in set three. A pair of Jones kills and blocks then led the Cougars on an 8-0 run, forcing another early Tar Heel timeout with BYU up 11-4. North Carolina stayed in the set, however, going on a 7-2 rally to get back within two, down 13-11. Consecutive blocks from Boswell later pushed the Cougars’ lead back to six, 18-12. A 4-0 Tar Heel run followed to bring North Carolina back within two at 18-16. BYU stayed composed as back-to-back Gray service aces brought her team back ahead 21-16. The Cougars cruised from there taking the set 25-17 on a Howard block.
The fourth set started out back and forth as a Boswell kill gave BYU a 12-10 edge. The score was knotted back up at 14 after the two teams exchanged service errors. The Tar Heels then went up by their largest lead yet of the match, 18-15, forcing a Cougar timeout. Three more quick North Carolina points put it up by five at 21-16. BYU then found some rhythm, going on a 6-0 rally to tie the set back at 22-all. The score remained close as the Cougars fought through two set points before taking the set and match 26-24 on a Gray and Boswell block.
BYU returns to action later Saturday at 8 p.m. PDT, to conclude the Women of Troy Baden Invitational against host No. 22 USC. The match will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network. Links to live stats and the video feed can be found on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.