Senior Alexa Gray led No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball to a three-set (25-17, 25-11, 25-14) victory against Saint Louis on Friday night at Chaifetz Arena to begin play in the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic.
“Our focus and energy was great from the start tonight,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “We were able to execute our game plan well, and Camry distributed the ball really well throughout the match.”
Gray led the Cougars with 13 kills on a .296 clip to go along with four digs. Senior Camry Godfrey Willardson had 35 assists, and junior Whitney Young Howard had a team-high six blocks. Senior Ciara Parker collected a match-high 19 digs while freshman Veronica Jones added eight kills. Additionally, junior Amy Boswell had nine kills on a .600 clip to go along with five blocks, while sophomore Cosy Burnett contributed 10 kills and three blocks in the win.
BYU (3-1) got off to a strong 4-0 lead in the first set with the help of a pair of Gray kills and a block. Saint Louis (1-4) struggled defensively in the early part of the set as a Burnett kill gave the Cougars a 10-4 advantage, forcing a Billiken timeout. BYU’s blocking was an asset in the first set, as Boswell’s fourth block put the Cougars up by eight, 16-8. Saint Louis followed with a 4-1 run to bring the Billikens back within five, down 17-12. The two teams traded points from there as a 5-2 Saint Louis rally brought it within three, 20-17. The run proved too late as BYU scored the next five points, taking the set 25-17 on a Gray kill.
The second set began with an even 2-2 draw. The Cougars then used a 4-1 run, capped off by a Gray kill, to go up 6-3. BYU continued to stay ahead 13-6 following a Howard and Jones block, which forced the Billikens to take their first timeout of the set. Back-to-back Boswell service aces then helped the Cougars go on an 8-0 rally to take a 19-6 advantage. BYU cruised from there, as a Boswell kill sealed the 25-11 set two win.
Three more kills from Gray helped the Cougars get off to a 7-1 lead to start the third set. Burnett then helped with three kills of her own to put BYU up 11-2. Saint Louis followed with a 4-1 run to bring the Billikens back within six, down 12-6. A Howard and Willardson block then extended the Cougars’ advantage to double digits, leading 18-8, before forcing a Saint Louis timeout. The teams went back and forth from there until a Burnett kill ended the set and match in BYU’s favor, 25-14.
The Cougars return to action Saturday at noon CDT, in the first of two matchups against No. 24 Purdue. An audio stream of the match will be available courtesy of the Boilermakers. Links to live stats as well as the audio stream 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.