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Cameron Muh | Posted: 2 Dec 2022 | Updated: 22 Dec 2022
Cameron Muh

No. 7 seed Cougars sweep Dukes in Tournament opener

No. 7 seed BYU women's volleyball celebrates a point in the first second against James Madison
Heather Gneiting hyped with No. 7 seed BYU women's volleyball against James Madison Erin Livingston rises up for back row swing against James Madison Kate Prior lands a kill against James Madison Head coach Heather Olmstead look on as No. 7 seed BYU women's volleyball warms up for NCAA First Round match against James Madison No. 7 seed BYU women's volleyball stands during national anthem of NCAA First Round match against James Madison

PITTSBURGH — No. 7 seed BYU women’s volleyball swept James Madison, 3-0 (25-20, 25-10, 25-15) in its NCAA Tournament First Round match at the Petersen Events Center on Friday evening.


"Congratulations to James Madison on a great season," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "Lauren and her team had a great year, they were conference champions, and it was great to match up with them in the First Round. I think our girls enjoyed playing their team and to see a team from a different part of the country. I'm really proud of our team and the focus and the fight that we have, especially in that first set. We played some clean volleyball and our coaches put together a great scouting report that our girls executed well. It was a great first round match. We're excited to advance and grateful for the opportunity to be here."

The Cougars (22-6, 15-3 WCC) overcame a five-point deficit in the first set and then never looked back, hitting .373 for the match and totaling nine blocks while holding the Dukes to a .112 clip.

Outside hitter Erin Livingston led all hitters with 20 kills, while middle blockers Heather Gneiting and Kate Prior finished with 10 and eight kills, respectively. The trio each hit .385 or better. 

Setter Whitney Bower tallied 33 assists, with liberos Kelsey Knudsen and Aria McComber contributing 14 and 12 digs, respectively. Prior and middle blocker Whitney Llarenas added six total blocks apiece. 

Set 1
Gneiting opened the match with a kill off the block, but JMU took the next four points before a Livingston kill ended the run. Trailing 6-2, BYU called a timeout. The Cougars got two kills by Prior and one from Gneiting to make it 8-6. 

Elyse Stowell landed a cross-court kill and McComber scored on an ace before BYU reeled off four-straight, thanks to two Livingston kills and a Whitney Bower dump, to tie the set at 12. Prior then got in on a pair of double blocks, one with Llarenas and the other with Gneiting, to give the Cougars an 18-16 lead, forcing a Dukes’ timeout. 

Prior, Gneiting and Livingston each registered kills to give BYU a 21-18 advantage, and James Madison called its second timeout. Livingston hammered an overpass kill and scored another one into the middle before two cross-court kills by Prior closed it out for the Cougars, who hit. 354 in the opening set, 25-20. 

Set 2
Gneiting helped BYU quickly take a 4-0 lead in the second, scoring on two kills and teaming up with Whitney Bower for a double block that forced a JMU timeout. Coming out of the timeout, a Gneiting slide off the block, cross-court Livingston kill and McComber’s second ace of the match gave the Cougars the 7-0 lead.

Two more Livingston kills and a James Madison error put BYU ahead 10-1, and the Dukes took their second timeout. A double block by Prior and Llarenas capped off a 3-0 Cougar run that made it 14-3. Llarenas slammed a quick hitter that landed just past the 10-foot line, Gneiting scored off an overpass and Prior landed a kill as BYU took an 18-5 lead. 

Stowell and Livingston both went cross-court before Prior and Llarenas sent back two double blocks, and it was 24-9. Eden Bower wrapped up the second with a kill two plays later for a 25-10 set win. The Cougars hit an impressive. 500 while holding the Dukes to .030 hitting in the set.

Set 3
Again taking a 3-0 lead to start the set, BYU went up 4-1 on a Whitney Bower dump kill. As James Madison rallied, Livingston went down the line and Gneiting got a kill off an overpass, making it 8-4, Cougars. 

Livingston sent back a solo block and then put down three-straight kills, with a quick-hitter by Llarenas capping off a 4-0 BYU that had the Cougars in front 15-8 at the media timeout. Another solo block from Livingston, Prior-Llarenas double block and Prior kill gave BYU a 10-point lead, at 20-10, forcing a Dukes’ timeout.

Two JMU errors made way for Whitney Bower to swing away and land a kill, and another James Madison error had the Cougars at match point. A play later, Livingston sent a cross-court kill to seal the BYU victory, 25-15. 

Advancing to the Second Round, the Cougars will take on the winner of the Pitt-Colgate nightcap (played at 7 p.m. EST) at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. EST. The match will be streamed on ESPN+.  


Cameron Muh | Posted: 30 Nov 2022 | Updated: 20 Dec 2022
Cameron Muh

No. 7 seed BYU heads to Pittsburgh for First Round match against JMU

Outside hitter Erin Livingston and setter Abby Taylor high-five after scoring a point

PROVO, Utah — No. 7 seed BYU women’s volleyball travels to Pittsburgh this week as it begins the 2022 NCAA Division I Tournament, playing James Madison in a First Round matchup at the Petersen Events Center on Friday afternoon.

The Cougars (21-6, 15-3 WCC) remained at No. 18 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll this week, marking the 150th-consecutive week that BYU has been ranked in the Top 25 dating back to 2013.

Taking the opening set off of then-No. 2 San Diego last Tuesday, BYU ultimately had a seven-match win streak snapped at the hands of the Toreros in the Cougars’ final regular season and West Coast Conference match.

BYU received double-digit kill efforts from middle blocker Heather Gneiting (13 kills), outside hitter Erin Livingston (13 kills) and middle blocker Whitney Llarenas (12 kills), while setter Whitney Bower dished out 44 assists. 

Gneiting and Llarenas contributed three blocks each in the match, with liberos Aria McComber and Kelsey Knudsen adding 13 and 11 digs, respectively. 

No. 7 seed BYU vs. James Madison

The Cougars have made 11-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including all eight seasons during BYU head coach Heather Olmstead’s tenure. Olmstead is 14-7 all-time in the postseason, with six trips to the Sweet 16 and a Final four run in 2018.

Dropping a three-setter to then-No. 8 Ohio State in Atlanta back in September, the Cougars are 0-1 in their only neutral site game this season. BYU is 1-4 in neutral site NCAA Tournament games under Olmstead, but 8-0 against unranked or unseeded teams in Tournament play with her at the helm.

Outside of the spring 2020-21 season where the NCAA Tournament was held entirely at a neutral site, this is the first postseason that the Cougars have traveled for their First Round match since 2014, when BYU made a run to the NCAA title game. 

BYU enters the NCAA Tournament with the fifth-highest hitting percentage in the nation, at .297. The Cougars also rank No. 15 in kills per set (14.02) and No. 21 in assists per set (12.96), concluding the regular season as WCC-leaders in all three statistical categories.

Llarenas led the conference and sits at No. 16 nationally with a .401 season hitting clip. Leading the team with 134 total blocks, Gneiting averages 1.22 blocks per set, a mark good for No. 53 in the country.

Finishing the regular season atop the WCC in kills per set (4.39) and attacks per set (10.46), Livingston ranks in the Top 25 in two metrics: No. 16 in kills per set and also No. 24 in points per set, averaging 4.88. 

James Madison (24-4, 15-1 Sun Belt)

  • The Sun Belt champion Dukes have won 15-consecutive matches, with their last loss occurring in four sets on Oct. 1 at Texas State 
  • After winning its first three games, JMU also went on a five-match win streak during the season
  • James Madison won three matches en route to its Sun Belt title, sweeping Georgia Southern, beating Troy in five and avenging its earlier loss to Texas State with a four-set win to clinch the championship 
  • Miëtte Veldman and Sophie Davis lead JMU offensively, with 416 and 314 kills, respectively. Caroline Dozier directs the Dukes with 957 assists on the year.
  • Jaydyn Clemmer (348 digs) and Veldman (244 digs) pace the team in digs, while Davis has a team-high 146 total blocks
  • Julia McNeley and Madilyn O’Toole are team-leaders in service aces, with 45 and 44, respectively
  • In 13 seasons as head coach at James Madison, Lauren Steinbrecher has a 241-118 (.671) record
  • This is the first meeting between BYU and JMU in volleyball. The two schools have met twice in men’s basketball back in 1990 and 1991, and five times in softball from 2014 to 2018. 

The winner of the BYU-JMU match will take on the winner of the Pitt-Colgate nightcap at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. EST. All three matches will be streamed on ESPN+.