No. 10 BYU women's volleyball dropped its first conference match of the season to Santa Clara in four sets (15-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-20) Saturday afternoon at the Leavey Event Center.
"I didn't think we played our best today," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "We have a great opportunity now to respond with a quick turn around with a match on Tuesday. If we learn from this match it can help us get better."
Alexa Gray led the Cougars with 18 kills to go along with nine digs. Camry Godfrey Willardson contributed 32 assists while Ciara Parker collected 12 digs. Amy Boswell had a team-high six blocks, and Veronica Jones had double-digit kills with 10.
BYU (11-2, 1-1 West Coast Conference) took a 5-2 lead on Santa Clara (10-4, 1-1 WCC) early in the first set after Boswell sent down an overpass ball for a kill. The two teams exchanged points from there as a Whitney Young Howard and Gray block kept the Cougars' advantage at four, 12-8. Another block, this time from Boswell and Willardson, extended BYU's lead to five, 17-12, and forced a timeout from the Broncos. Following the break, the Cougars went on a 5-0 run, with help from a pair of Jones kills, to take a double-digit lead at 22-12. BYU then took the set 25-15 on a Santa Clara attack error.
The score was tied 3-3 to begin the second set before the Broncos went on a 5-2 rally to take an 8-5 edge. A Cosy Burnett and Boswell block knotted the score up at 8-all before Santa Clara scored the next three to retake the advantage, 11-8. The teams traded points from there until a 3-1 spurt from the Broncos put them up by four, 17-13, forcing the Cougars to take their first timeout of the set. Santa Clara led by as many as six before back-to-back Burnett and Gray kills forced the Broncos to use a timeout, ahead by four at 19-15. Santa Clara cruised on offense from there, taking the set 25-19 to even up the match.
BYU roared to a 5-2 lead at the start of the third set with help from several Bronco attack errors. Santa Clara stayed in the set, however, coming back with an impressive 8-1 run to take an 11-9 edge. The Cougars kept things close, retaking the lead at 16-15 from consecutive Gray kills. A Willardson service ace then put BYU up by two, 20-18, forcing the Broncos to take their final timeout of the set. Santa Clara scored the next three to retake the advantage at 21-20 and closed out the set 25-22 on Nikki Hess' 12th kill of the night.
The Broncos began on a 5-2 rally to start the fourth set. The two teams went back-and-forth from there until a Santa Clara ace put it up by five, 11-6. The Cougars followed with a 4-1 run to come back within a pair of points, down 12-10. The score remained neck-to-neck as back-to-back Howard blocks gave BYU the lead for the first time of the set at 15-14. The Cougars capped off an 8-2 run, which gave them a 19-15 lead, with a Bronco attack error. Santa Clara then scored the next eight-straight points to recapture the advantage with a 23-19 edge. The Broncos won the set and match 25-20 on a kill.
The Cougars return home to the Smith Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. MDT, when they face off against Loyola Marymount. The match will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Links to live stats and a 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.