For the second year in a row, No. 12 BYU women's volleyball rallied from down two sets at Gonzaga to win in a five-set (23-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-16, 16-14) thriller Saturday afternoon at the McCarthy Athletic Center.
"I'm proud of the way the team fought the entire match," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "Gonzaga played a great match and really made it hard for us defensively. Our block showed up in the third set and that really changed the momentum. Alexa was determined today and played some great volleyball. Everyone contributed and that's what makes this win so great."
Alexa Gray led all players with a double-double of 29 kills (fifth-most all-time in the BYU rally-scoring era and one shy of her career high set on Thursday at Portland) and 13 digs while hitting at a .338 clip. She also took 74 attempts, the most all-time in the BYU rally-scoring era. Camry Godfrey Willardson and Alohi Robins-Hardy added 33 and 26 assists, respectively, while Robins-Hardy contributed 11 digs for a double-double. Whitney Young Howard contributed a match-high six blocks to go with a season-high eight kills. Ciara Parker chipped in a match-high 17 digs, and Amy Boswell had 14 kills and four blocks. Cosy Burnett added double-digit kills with 11, and Veronica Jones contributed nine kills of her own. Additionally, Makenna Santiago had a career-high 12 digs in the win.
As a team, BYU (23-3, 13-2 West Coast Conference) collected 73 assists — good for seventh-most all-time in the BYU rally-scoring era.
Gonzaga (14-14, 5-10 WCC) took the first three-consecutive points of the decisive fifth set en route to a 5-1 advantage. BYU struggled offensively early but managed to come back and knot things up at 7-all on a Gray kill. The teams traded points back and forth from there as a couple of Boswell kills gave the Cougars the 11-10 edge, forcing a Bulldog timeout. Gonzaga then retook the lead up 14-12 before a Gray kill and block from Jones and Howard tied the score at 14-apiece. A Burnett kill gave BYU set point and a Jones kill ended the set and match, 16-14, for the Cougars.
BYU started the first set with a pair of kills from Boswell as the Cougars trailed Gonzaga, 4-3, early on. A Lacy Haddock ace then helped BYU go on a 6-1 run, giving the Cougars their first advantage of the set at 9-6. BYU maintained its lead, ahead 16-10, following another Boswell kill. The Bulldogs then countered with an 11-3 rally to retake the advantage at 21-19. The Cougars came back within a point on four occasions, but it wasn't enough as Gonzaga took set one, 25-23, on a kill from Savannah Blinn.
The Bulldogs started the second set on a 5-2 run before a pair of Gray kills brought BYU back within a point, down 5-4. Another 5-2 Gonzaga rally, which gave the Bulldogs a 10-6 lead, forced Olmstead to take a timeout. Gonzaga seemingly took control of the set from that point, taking a seven-point lead, 18-11, after a Jordan Gasser kill. Four more kills from Gray helped cut the deficit to five at 23-18, forcing the Bulldogs to take their first timeout of the set. The Cougars' surge proved too late, though, as Gonzaga took a 2-0 lead with a 25-20 set two win after another Blinn kill.
The Bulldogs got off to another strong start in the third set, going up 6-2 early on. BYU fought its way back, coming within two at 9-7 and 12-10, before ultimately taking the lead at 15-14 on a Gonzaga attack error. Another trio of kills from Gray gave the Cougars a four-point advantage at 19-15. The Bulldogs quickly worked their way back, down 20-19 after a 4-1 run, forcing a BYU timeout. The teams traded points to the end as a Gray kill gave the Cougars the close set, 25-23.
BYU began the fourth set on a 4-0 run, capped off by a Boswell service ace. Gonzaga took its final timeout early in the set, down 9-3, after a 5-2 BYU run. A Jones kill then gave the Cougars a double-digit lead, ahead 16-6. The teams went back and forth in scoring from that point until five-consecutive Bulldog points brought them within seven, down 22-15. Back-to-back Boswell kills, however, finished out the set, 25-16, sending it to the decisive fifth set.
The win, coupled with San Diego's loss at Portland, leaves BYU in sole possession of first place in the WCC standings.
The Cougars return home next Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. MST, when they face off against second-place Santa Clara. BYU a capella group Vocal Point is slated to perform. 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.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.