A season-high 18 team blocks propelled No. 16 BYU women’s volleyball to its second-consecutive three-set (25-23, 25-19, 25-20) win of the season over No. 24 San Diego on Friday night at the Smith Fieldhouse. Despite only playing three sets, the Cougars fell just one team block shy of their season high total.
“I like the way our girls came out with energy right from the very beginning,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “They know how important it is to win every match. I thought Dave (Hyte) and Charlene (Johnson Whitted) did a good job with the scouting and the girls really executed. Our blocking was really good tonight.”
Alexa Gray once again led BYU in kills with 11 while chipping in six blocks. Ciara Parker had a team-high 11 digs, while Whitney Young Howard led in blocks with nine. Camry Godfrey Willardson fueled the Cougars’ attack with 24 assists.
Four attack errors from the Toreros gave BYU (19-3, 9-2 West Coast Conference) an early 4-1 lead in set one. The Cougars pushed the lead to 9-5 after Veronica Jones and Howard combined for a huge block. Two more attack errors from San Diego (16-7, 9-2 WCC) in as many points led to a 17-13 BYU lead and a Torero timeout. A BYU error and San Diego kill then pulled the Toreros back to within two, 21-19. Things got tense near the end of set one as San Diego put together two-straight kills to pull within one, 24-23. Following a BYU timeout, Cosy Burnett closed out the set with a big kill, 25-23.
Set two began with each team trading points back-and-forth until BYU took a 6-4 lead thanks to a block by Burnett and Howard. With the Cougars up to a 9-8 advantage, Gray came through with a long-distance kill to salvage some sloppy passing and begin a string of four-consecutive points, which put BYU ahead 13-8. The Toreros got within one at 15-14, but the Cougars took five of the next six points to stretch the lead to 20-15 and force a San Diego timeout. Set two would never again be in serious jeopardy for BYU, and Amy Boswell ensured the 25-19 victory with a block.
Neither team established a significant lead during the early going in set three. With BYU down 4-3, the Cougars won seven of the next nine points – due in large part to six Torero errors – to take a 10-6 lead. Kills by Howard and later Burnett would bookend another BYU run to extend the Cougars' lead to 15-8 and force a San Diego timeout. The Toreros used their final timeout just five points later after a Burnett service ace pushed the lead to double digits, 19-9. Despite San Diego pulling within four multiple times, the Cougars clinched the match with relative ease after a Torero attack error, 25-20.
The Cougars remain home at the Smith Fieldhouse as they face off against Saint Mary’s in match two of a three-match home stand next Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. MST. The match will be broadcast live on BYUtv and simulcast on BYU Radio. Links to live stats and a video feed can be found on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.
Blake Dorton is a BYU student studying broadcast journalism and French. He hopes to pursue a career in sports broadcasting following graduation. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeDorton.