BYU women’s volleyball sweeps UCLA to advance to Sweet 16
OMAHA, Neb. – The 16th-seeded BYU women’s volleyball team defeated UCLA in straight sets (26-24, 31-29, 25-17) in the second round of the 2020 NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the CHI Health Center Arena, securing the program’s eighth Sweet 16 appearance in nine seasons.
"We were able to put together a plan and our team felt comfortable with it," said BYU head coach Heather Olmstead. "We were able to execute and get stops on Mac May and élan McCall early. Not only did we have 16 blocks in three sets, which is incredible, we had many more block touches that were fabulous."
Senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the Cougars with 13 kills while adding nine digs and five blocks to her stat line. Freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston also reached double-digit kills with 12. Senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg totaled 11 kills on a .421 clip while matching her season high of eight blocks for the fifth time in six matches.
Sophomore setter Whitney Bower finished with 38 assists and 11 digs, marking her 11th double-double of the season. Freshman libero Madi Allen led the team with 13 digs while freshman middle blocker matched her career high of seven blocks.
BYU (17-1, 15-1 WCC) ended the match with 16 blocks, marking the most team blocks in a three-set match since 2015, while holding UCLA (15-7, 14-6 Pac-12) to a .115 hitting percentage. The Cougars totaled 47 kills while hitting .256 on the night.
The Cougars fell behind 11-7 following several unforced errors early in the first set. Consecutive kills by Dodson brought BYU within one point, 15-14. Eschenberg recorded a solo block, kill and block assist to contribute three consecutive points and give the Cougars an 18-17 edge. BYU took advantage of a few Bruin errors to extend its lead to 23-20. UCLA stormed back to retake the lead 24-23 before sophomore outside hitter Abbey Dayton dropped her second ace of the set and Ballard-Nixon connected on two kills to help the Cougars take the first set, 26-24.
The two teams battled back and forth to start the second set before the Bruins gained a four-point cushion, 16-12. Trailing 20-14, Ballard-Nixon recorded a pair of kills followed by a block to bring the score within three points. Down 24-21 and facing set point, BYU tallied three consecutive kills to tie the score at 24-all. UCLA had six more opportunities to end the set, but the Cougars continued to fight to keep the second game alive. Trailing 29-28, Ballard-Nixon tied the score with a kill and consecutive BYU blocks completed the comeback, 31-29.
The two teams traded points early in the third game until a pair of kills by Livingston and a Dodson ace gave the Cougars a three-point cushion, 10-7. A solo block by Ballard-Nixon and two kills by Eschenberg increased the advantage to 14-9. BYU continued to pull away with a kill by Ballard-Nixon and another Dayton ace making the score 20-13. After pulling back within four points, the Bruins had back-to-back unforced errors and Ballard-Nixon secured the set, 25-17, and sweep for the Cougars.
"I want to congratulate UCLA on a great season; they were a great opponent," Olmstead said. "We're excited to be advancing and we're grateful for the NCAA changing up the tournament a little bit for us by moving our match to Saturday."
BYU will face top-seeded Wisconsin in the Round of 16 on Saturday, April 17 at 7 p.m. CDT. The match will be broadcast on ESPN3 and WatchESPN App. The 2020 NCAA Tournament will continue to be hosted at the CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.
No. 16-seed BYU to face UCLA in second round of NCAA Tournament
PROVO, Utah – After securing the No. 16 seed and a first-round bye, BYU women’s volleyball will face UCLA in the second round of the 2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament on Thursday, April 15 at 9:30 p.m. CDT on ESPN3/WatchESPN App.
BYU Cougars (16-1, 15-1 WCC)
- This marks BYU’s ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth and the seventh time in those nine seasons the Cougars have been one of the 16 seeded teams
- Under Olmstead, the Cougars have advanced to four Sweet 16s and the 2018 Final Four
- The Cougars went 15-1 in conference play to claim their seventh WCC title in 10 years since joining the league in 2011
- BYU enters the tournament ranked in top 10 nationally in three major statistical categories: No. 5 in assists per set (13.56), No. 5 in hitting percentage (.312) and No. 9 in kills per set (14.40)
- Middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg ranks No. 6 in the NCAA Division I in hitting percentage (.459) and No. 11 in blocks per set (1.52)
- Sophomore setter Whitney Bower was named WCC Player of the Year and WCC Setter of the Year
- Bower, senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon, Eschenberg and sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer were all named to the All-WCC First Team and the AVCA Pacific South All-Region team
- Head coach Heather Olmstead received WCC Coach of the Year and Pacific South Region Coach of the Year
- The Cougars remained No. 14 in the last AVCA national poll before the tournament, marking the 117th consecutive week BYU has been ranked
Series Information – BYU vs. UCLA
- BYU is 5-24-1 all-time against UCLA since the first meeting in 1972, but only twice in the start of the rally era in 2001 (2004, 2009 – both UCLA wins)
- The two teams have met 11 times in the postseason (NCAA/AIAW) with the Cougars going 3-8 in those matchups
- In the five NCAA Tournament meetings between the two programs, BYU is 2-3 against UCLA
UCLA Bruins (15-6, 14-6 Pac-12)
- UCLA is making its 37th appearance in the NCAA Tournament while boasting a postseason record of 92-33
- The Bruins swept Rider in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to play BYU in the second round
- Junior Zoe Fleck was named Pac-12 Conference Libero of the Year
- Fleck was also one of five Bruins to earn All-Pac-12 honors, joining senior Mac May, junior élan McCall and freshman Iman Ndiaye
- UCLA entered the week ranked 21st in assists per set (12.97) and 26th in kills per set (13.90)
- The Bruins are ranked No. 15 in the latest AVCA national poll
- Date: Thursday, April 15
- Time: 9:30 p.m. CDT
- Live Stream: ESPN3/WatchESPN App
- Live Stats: StatBroadcast
- The NCAA Tournament is being held at the CHI Health Center Convention Center in Omaha, Nebraska
- The winner of Thursday’s match will face either No. 1-seed Wisconsin, Bowling Green or Weber State
- First- and second-round attendance will be limited to teams and team guests