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Cameron Muh | Posted: 23 Sep 2022 | Updated: 23 Sep 2022
Cameron Muh

BYU and Pepperdine to play in top-20 Saturday matinee

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Eden Bower, Heather Gneiting and Whitney Bower between points against UVU on September 17, 2022

PROVO, Utah — Winners of three-straight, No. 16 BYU women’s volleyball welcomes No. 17 Pepperdine to the Smith Fieldhouse as West Coast Conference (WCC) play continues on Saturday afternoon.

Backed by 12 kills from Erin Livingston, 28 assists by Whitney Bower and three blocks each from Heather Gneiting and Eden Bower, the Cougars swept Loyola Marymount on Thursday night (25-23, 25-18, 25-21) to open their final season in the WCC with a win.

Ranked in the top-17 for 131-straight polls, BYU is one of three WCC teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll. Saturday's opponent, the 17th-ranked Waves, dropped a four-setter at No. 4 San Diego to open their conference slate on Thursday night.

Heading into Saturday night's top-20 matchup, the Cougars have won 28-consecutive WCC matches. Dating back to a five-set loss to San Diego in 2019, BYU has also won 22-straight conference matches in Provo. 

No. 16 BYU vs. No. 17 Pepperdine

The Cougars improved to 7-1 at home this season after their victory over the Lions. Head coach Heather Olmstead is 107-6 in the Smith Fieldhouse during her time at BYU. She's also posted a record of 112-9 in the WCC, going 13-1 against Pepperdine with a perfect 6-0 record against the Waves in Provo.

Livingston paces the Cougars with 150 kills on the season. Her 4.05 kills per set average currently has her No. 39 in the nation. Surpassing the 3,000-career assists mark earlier in the season, Whitney Bower has tallied 368 assists on the year, averaging just under 10 per set a 9.95. 

Gneiting and Whitney Llarenas have played strong in the middle. Gneiting is second on the team with 93 kills, while leading the team in blocks (40), and aces (16). Llarenas' 83 kills are third-highest on the team, and her 38 blocks put her just behind Gneiting's 40. 

No. 17 Pepperdine (9-3, 0-1 WCC)

  • The Waves took down No. 6 Minnesota (3-1) in Minneapolis last week, also beating Washington State, a common opponent with BYU, in four sets, before falling at No. 4 San Diego (3-1) to open WCC play on Thursday night
  • With the win over the Gophers, Pepperdine has three top-25 wins. The Waves have also beat No. 9 Baylor and No. 13 Washington after suffering a 3-0 loss at the hands of No. 1 Nebraska earlier in the season.
  • Meg Brown (131), Emily Hellmuth (129) and Grace Chillingworth (126) lead the Waves in kills. Rachel Ahrens has 107 kills on the year, giving the Waves' four hitters with 100+ kills.
  • With 468 assists, setter Isabel Zelaya leads the conference. Riley Patterson's 194 digs and Vanessa Polk's 61 blocks are also a conference highs. 
  • Eight seasons in as head coach at Pepperdine, Scott Wong has a 134-79 (.629) record with the Waves
  • BYU leads the all-time series with Pepperdine, 31-10. The Cougars won both matchups last season, beating a ranked Waves' team in Malibu, 3-1, and sweeping them in Provo.

Leaving the state of Utah for just the second time this season, the Cougars will head to the Pacific Northwest next week for conference matches at Portland and Gonzaga.