(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
LEXINGTON, Kentucky – Despite Alexa Gray's 18 kills, No. 13 seed BYU women's volleyball fell to No. 4 seed Nebraska in straight sets (26-24, 25- 17, 25-23) in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament at the University of Kentucky Friday evening.
"Congrats to Nebraska on a well-played match and for advancing," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "I'm so proud of our team and these girls and their fight. I think we struggled to bounce back after that close first set loss. We couldn't seem to get it going the way that we had all season."
Gray led all hitters with 18 kills and added 15 digs for a double-double in her last game as a Cougar. Amy Boswell had eight kills and five blocks, and Camry Godfrey Willardson had 20 assists. Ciara Parker had a team-high 18 digs and Cosy Burnett added seven kills.
Nebraska (29-4) got the first point of the first set, but a kill from Gray tied the set at 1-1. Nebraska took the next three points, but Gray's kill ended the Cornhuskers' run at 5-3. The Cornhuskers then won three-straight points before a BYU (28-4) timeout at 8-4. Kills from Whitney Young Howard and Burnett brought the game to 10-6. Points were traded back and forth until a service error from Nebraska and kills by Burnett and Gray brought the Cornhuskers' lead back down to two. Boswell and Willardson had back-to-back blocks that then brought the Cougars within one, 13-12.
Boswell's slide kill tied the game up for the first time at 13-all, and Lacy Haddock added a kill to keep pace with Nebraska. Alohi Robins-Hardy tied the set at 15 with her ace, and the teams went back and forth for the next three points. Two kills and a Gray error gave Nebraska an 18-16 edge. Howard ended its run with a deep kill kill, and the Cougars took the next two points. Boswell and Gray's kill tied the game up at 20, but the Cornhuskers took the next two points, increasing their lead back to two. Gray ended their run with a kill to the middle of the court, and Boswell added a strong kill down the middle, making the score 23-22. Mikaela Foecke took the game to set point for the Cornhuskers, but a Howard kill and a block from her and Burnett tied the set at 24 apiece. Nebraska's Kelsey Fien had a kill to the left and a block gave them a close first set, 26-24.
Burnett opened the offensive attack for the Cougars in the second set with a kill down the line, but Nebraska won the next three points off of kills, making it 4-1. Boswell added a kill down the middle, but the Cornhuskers took the next four points off a kill and three errors to take an 8-2 advantage. Boswell's kill from the middle ended the Cornhuskers' run, and Howard added a kill to make it 9-5 for Nebraska. The teams traded the next six points, and Burnett added two kills to bring the Cougars within four, 11-7.
Nebraska took the next two points off of kills, but a service error from both teams made it 15-8 for the Cornhuskers. Kadie Rolfzen got a kill down the right line for Nebraska and Gray hit a ball to the opposite corner, making the score 16-9. Veronica Jones then had a kill in her first appearance of the game, bringing to score to 17-10. An attack error from Nebraska brought the set to 18-11, but it took the next three points before being stopped by a Burnett kill. An error from the Cornhuskers then brought the Cougars within seven, but Fien's kill kept the lead comfortable for the Huskers at 21-13. Gray added three kills to bring the score back to 22-16. Boswell contributed a kill on the next point down the middle, but Nebraska won the next two points, taking the second set 25-17.
Errors for both teams open the third set, but kills from Cecilia Hall and Boswell tied the game up at 2-2. She added a block and Gray had back-to-back kills to give BYU its first lead of the night, 6-2. The Cornhuskers ended the Cougars' run with a kill, but Willardson and Boswell came up with a big block to keep their 7-3 lead. Nebraska won the next four points with four different players, and took the lead off of an Amber Rolfzen kill, 8-7. Boswell's kill down the middle ended the Cornhusker's run, and Jones' kill gave the Cougars a 9-8 lead. Another Jones kill and Nebraska's two errors extended the lead to 12-9 for the Cougars. The two teams traded kills until the Cornhuskers tied it up again at 13 on a Cecilia Hall kill.
The teams went back and forth again with the Cornhuskers taking a 16-15 lead off of a block. They won the next three points until the Cougars won the point off a block from Robins-Hardy and Boswell. Jones added a kill but Amber Rolfzen earned the next two points for Nebraska off of kills. Gray had two kills and Jones added one that led an offensive attack that brought the score to 23-21. An error from Nebraska brought the Cougars again within one, but a kill from Fien gave Nebraska match point. Gray had a kill to make it 24-23, but she hit her next shot just wide of the right line to give the Cornhuskers the set and match, 25-23.
The Cougars lose three seniors from this year’s squad, all starters – Alexa Gray, Ciara Parker and Camry Godfrey Willardson.