Amy Boswell and No. 10 BYU women's volleyball handed San Francisco its first loss of the season, beating the Dons in four sets (25-23, 17-25, 25-21, 25-22) Thursday night at War Memorial Gym to start West Coast Conference play.
"I liked our team's fight tonight," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "It's always a battle on the road, and San Francisco played well. I'm proud of the way our team stayed together."
Boswell collected a team-high nine blocks to go along with 11 kills on a .556 clip. Alexa Gray had a match-high 18 kills, including 10 in the fourth set, while Veronica Jones chipped in nine kills and four blocks. Ciara Parker collected double-digit digs with 10, and Whitney Young Howard contributed six blocks to round out the defensive effort. Alohi Robins-Hardy and Camry Godfrey Willardson added 18 assists apiece in the win.
BYU (11-1, 1-0) took an early 4-2 lead in the first set from a Jaiden Achermann service ace. San Francisco (13-1, 0-1) kept things close, however, coming back to take a 10-9 lead on back-to-back Jessica Gaffney kills. The score remained close until a string of four-consecutive points from the Dons put them up 14-11, forcing a Cougar timeout. BYU followed that up with a 4-0 rally of its own to retake the lead, 17-16. The battle continued as the two sides traded points until a 3-0 San Francisco spurt propelled the Dons to a 22-20 advantage. A Boswell block and kill then helped put the Cougars ahead 23-22. Boswell then finished the closely-contested set for BYU, 25-23, on another kill.
A Howard and Gray block gave the Cougars the first point of the second set. San Francisco quickly responded with its offensive attack to take an 8-4 advantage. BYU answered following a timeout to come back to even the score at 10-all on a Gray kill. The score remained neck-to-neck before a 10-1 Don rally, helped by several Cougar miscues, put San Francisco back up 22-15 late in the set. The Dons then evened the match 1-1, winning the set 25-17 on a BYU attack error.
A pair of Boswell blocks helped the Cougars go up 5-3 to start the third set. San Francisco continued to keep things close, using five-straight points to take a 10-8 advantage. Another Boswell kill evened the pivotal third set at 13 apiece before BYU retook the lead at 17-15 on a soft-touch Gray kill. Back-to-back Boswell blocks gave the Cougars a four-point separation, up 23-19, forcing the Dons to take their final timeout of the set. Boswell then finished the set for BYU, 25-21, on an ace.
San Francisco came rolling out of the gates in the fourth set, going up 4-0 following a trio of Cougar miscues. With BYU trailing 8-4, the Cougars went on a 4-1 rally to come back within a point at 9-8. The score remained neck-to-neck as a Willardson dump kill put BYU on top for the first time in the set, 15-14. A Jones kill then helped lengthen the Cougar advantage to three, 18-15, forcing the Dons to take their final timeout of the set. San Francisco then scored three unanswered points to tie things up at 18-all. Another Gray attack and kill kept BYU ahead at 23-20, and two more Gray kills ended the set and match 25-22.
The Cougars stay on the road Saturday when they travel to Santa Clara to face off against the Broncos at 1 p.m. PDT. The match will be streamed live on TheW.tv. 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.