A career night from a trio of Cougars helped No. 12 BYU women's volleyball to a four-set (24-26, 25-20, 26-24, 25-18) win over Portland on Thursday night at the Chiles Center.
"I loved the way our team fought together," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "Everyone was ready to play and contributed tonight. I'm proud of the way our backcourt defense stepped up. I think Portland played really well and put pressure on us, but our team handled it well."
Alexa Gray led the Cougars with a double-double of a career-high 30 kills (third-most all-time at BYU in the rally-scoring era) and a career-high 32 digs (fourth-most in the rally-scoring era) on a .316 clip. Gray additionally took a career-high 76 attempts, the most taken by a BYU player in the rally-scoring era. Veronica Jones added a career-high 18 kills, while Amy Boswell matched that with a career high of 18 kills of her own in addition to a team-high seven blocks. Ciara Parker added 22 digs defensively, while Camry Godfrey Willardson and Alohi Robins-Hardy took turns pacing the team on offense with 33 and 29 assists, respectively. Additionally, Robins-Hardy contributed a season-high 13 digs, and Lacy Haddock added 12 digs in the win.
As a team, the Cougars (22-3, 12-2 West Coast Conference) collected 104 digs, the most ever recorded in school history during the rally-scoring era. This is just the fourth time BYU has collected triple-digit digs in the rally-scoring era and is the first time the Cougars have hit the century mark in digs while playing just four sets. The team also collected 76 kills, third-most all-time in the rally-scoring era while playing four sets. The team additionally had 72 assists, good for fourth-most all-time during four sets played in the rally-scoring era.
Boswell gave BYU the first point of the first set as the Cougars quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Portland (14-12, 4-10 WCC) then scored the next two points before BYU took a 9-3 advantage after consecutive Boswell and Willardson blocks. The Pilots rattled off six-straight points to tie the set back up at 9-9. The teams traded points from there as a Gray kill evened the score back at 15-apiece. Portland then took a 20-18 advantage on a service ace, but another kill from Gray knotted things back at 22-all. BYU's rally proved short as the Pilots took the close first set in extra points, 26-24.
The second set picked up right where the first set left off, as the teams went back-and-forth in scoring. Gray quickly scored on three-consecutive kills to give the Cougars a 7-5 edge, and two kills in a row for Boswell pushed the advantage to four at 10-6. BYU kept its lead at four, 15-11, following an ace from Robins-Hardy. The Cougars remained ahead by five at 21-16 after a Boswell kill and block. Whitney Young Howard then closed out the set for BYU, 25-20, with a kill.
The Cougars took a 3-0 lead early in the third set, but strong defense from Portland kept the Pilots within a point, down 8-7. The teams remained within a point of each other as Gray and Portland's Emily Liger took turns smashing kills with the score at 15-all. The Pilots took their first timeout of the set as another Gray kill inched BYU ahead, 19-18. The score stayed neck-to-neck until consecutive kills from Boswell gave the Cougars a 24-22 advantage. Portland fought its way back to add extra points, but BYU wrapped up the set, 26-24, with a kill from Jones.
Jones stayed hot to start the fourth set, collecting four of the Cougars' first five points to help her team to a 5-3 advantage. An ace from Makenna Santiago kept BYU ahead 10-5 before the Pilots came back within three points, down 13-10. Portland took its last timeout as the Cougars began to create some separation in the set, up 18-13 after a Boswell kill. BYU finished the set on a 4-2 run, including three kills from Gray, to take the match with a 25-18 set four win.
The Cougars stay on the road Saturday when they face off against Gonzaga at 12 p.m. PST. 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.