LAS -- In a match marked by high emotion and intensity, the BYU women’s volleyball fought valiantly in forcing UNLV to a fifth set Thursday night but eventually fell to the Rebels on their home floor (21-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 11-15). The Cougars (11-11, 4-8 MWC) overcame a two-set deficit for the first time this year to force a fifth set but could not come all the way back.
“I’m really proud of our team,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “We played tremendously, and it’s unfortunate to have an ‘L’ by this match. We struggled in the second set, and it really held us back. If not for that, this would’ve been an entirely different outcome.”
Three Cougars posted double-doubles in the stat-heavy match. Junior Kayla Walker led all players with a career-high 21 kills accompanied by 11 digs to tally her fifth double-double of the year and second in the last three matches. Walker’s kill total marked the first time this season that a Cougar has topped the 20-kill mark. Senior Bryn Porter followed suit with 12 kills and 16 digs for her second straight double-double and sixth of the season. Sophomore Kiana Rogers notched a season-high 50 assists and 17 digs to record her team-leading eighth double-double. Sophomore Melissa Lake notched a career-high 20 digs to pace the Cougars. Senior Rachel Dyer also tallied double-digit kills with 14.
The Cougars began the match with a 6-4 lead but quickly fell behind thanks to a 6-1 UNLV run that gave the home team a 10-7 advantage. Back-to-back kills from Porter and Rogers knotted the score at 15-15, spurring a flurry of points from both sides, but the Rebels once again pulled ahead at 20-17 with three straight scores. Despite a kill from Porter to end the Cougar scoring drought, UNLV held on for the 25-21 win.
UNLV started with the hot hand in set two as the Rebels ran out to a 6-0 lead before BYU’s Walker got the Cougars on the board with a kill followed by a service ace from Morgan Lloyd. The UNLV lead became 9-2 until the Cougars came back to cut the deficit to four points at 13-9. BYU kept it close throughout the remainder of the set but could not overcome the early disadvantage, falling 25-20.
Staring defeat in the face in set three, the Cougars came out strong and never looked back. BYU led by as many as nine points at 18-9 before UNLV mounted a comeback to cut the advantage to just four at 19-15. But the Cougars held off the charge and held on for the 20-25 win on a kill from Porter. BYU hit .361 in the set while holding UNLV to a .194 mark.
With one set under their belt and two more to go until victory, the Cougars held a steady lead throughout much of the fourth set. Trailing 19-15, UNLV mounted a furious charge with three straight kills from Cursty Jackson and eventually tied the set at 20-20. Moments later, the Rebels took their first lead of the set at 22-21. A kill from Dyer and a BYU triple block put the Cougars back on top for good as they posted a 25-23 win.
With one set left to determine a victor, both teams battled from the first serve of the fifth frame. BYU managed to squeeze out an 8-6 lead after a kill from Walker and a UNLV hitting error. The Rebels kept the pressure on after the lead became 10-8 with a 5-0 run to take control at 13-10 in the shortened set, forcing a BYU timeout. A kill from Dyer was the last score the Cougars would get as they fell 15-11 after a 7-1 UNLV run to end the match.
The Cougars will finish their western road trip on Saturday at San Diego State. The match will begin at 1 p.m. PT (2 p.m. MT).