PROVO — The BYU women's volleyball team has provided several dominant performances in recent history, although few likely match the one put forth versus Stony Brook on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The result was another straight set win for the No. 4-seeded Cougars (25-20, 25-13, 25-12) in front of an always raucous Smith Fieldhouse crowd.
Hitting percentages in volleyball often compare well to baseball hitting averages, with an above .300 percentage indicating good offense and below .200 something left to be desired. For Stony Brook on Friday, it hit for a -.034 percentage due to fearsome BYU frontline blocking and solid serving that put the Seawolves' attack out of system for most of the match.
"I thought we served really well today," said BYU coach Heather Olmstead. "Numerous people went on serving runs. … So I thought we served tough and got them in some trouble a little bit, which made our block see the right things."
Leading the Cougar block were middles Kennedy Eschenberg and Heather Gneiting, who had six and three block assists, respectively. Also helping out big was Roni Jones-Perry, who tallied four block assists to go along with her match-high 17 kills and libero Mary Lake digging out a lot of what got through, scoring a team-high 13 digs.
"It definitely felt good. Everyone was participating and everyone was getting excited," Lake said of the defensive effort. "Sydnie (Martindale) had some great digs. We had people coming in — Kiani (Moea'i) made some great plays, so the energy and defense feed off each other."
Martindale scored eight digs, with Danelle Stetler adding nine. Moea'i had three for the game and played big late in the match in extending rallies and providing a lot of energy off the bench.
As good as the Cougar defense was throughout, the second set provided a complete clinic, with the Seawolves hitting just -.250 percent as a team. The Cougars took advantage, getting off to a fast 13-5 lead and then cruising toward a comfortable 25-13 set win.
Stony Brook upped its hitting percentage to a straight .000 percent in the third set, but it was squashed by a score of 25-12 to get bounced from the tournament. Although disappointed by the result, the Seawolves came away thankful for the opportunity, showing a lot of enthusiasm throughout, particularly those on the bench.
"When you look at our team, it's a very team-first group, and when you have a bench culture that's engaged as these guys are — they just love the game," said Stony Brook coach Kristin Belzung. "They're ready to compete for anything. … I thought we started out strong and ended strong."9 comments on this story
Indeed, Stony Brook had the home crowd a little shocked at first, withstanding a 4-0 deficit to start to lead throughout most of the first set until the Cougars closed things out on a 5-0 run to win 25-20.
With the win, BYU advances to take on Utah in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, which will be played Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"We're super excited to advance in the tournament," Olmstead said. "It's a good opportunity for us to play another match at home, and Utah is a great opponent."