CHAMPAGNE -- In the first game of the season for the BYU women’s volleyball team, the Cougars fell to No. 6 Illinois 3-1 (27-25, 9-25, 16-25, 16-25) as part of the Illini Classic.
“We battled and played very aggressively,” BYU head coach Shay Goulding said. “But there were too many moments where we played tentatively. It was good to get one set under our belts – we played very clean, were aggressive on the serve and were virtually error free. We’re ready to continue on tomorrow and steal a match from any given team.”
Junior Christie Carpenter led the way on the attack with seven kills, while senior Stephanie Snow and true freshman Taeja Afalava tallied six kills each. Senior setter Kiana Rogers chalked up 25 assists, as well as leading the team on digs with 15.
Having an impressive breakout night for the Fighting Illini was Colleen Ward who tallied 19 kills on a .382 clip, nine service errors and five digs. Her serving in the second set led to the decline of Cougar play.
Starting out the season on the court for BYU was Christina Measom, Rogers, Carpenter, Warner, Snow, Afalava and Hartsock as libero.
The Cougars jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the first set with two kills by Snow and a service ace by Measom. The Cougars led the entire set until the Illini posted a 5-0 run to knot the score at 24. A kill from Afalava put the Cougars up one, then they gave away a service error to tie the score at 25. An Illini attack error and a service ace by Afalava gave the Cougars their first set win of the season.
While the Cougars started out the second set with kills from freshman Coriann Clark and Carpenter at 2-1, Illinois then posted a 12-0 run with Ward behind the serving line. She earned eight service aces, with five in a row before a service error to give BYU its third point (3-13). The Cougars continued to play down, only coming out with nine total points for the set (9-25).
“We did everything we could to adjust to her serving,” Goulding said. “It was a legitimately good jump serve and she got into the groove. We stopped her the rest of the night, but it was difficult to bounce back from that deficit.”
Back-and-forth play in the beginning of the third helped the Cougars to gain their confidence back. After a tied score at seven, Illinois had a 5-0 run, but was followed by a 4-0 Cougar run to bring the score to 11-12. A late 5-0 Illini run ended the set 25-16 before the Cougars could catch back up.
Set four was similar to set three, the Fighting Illini chipping away at the score little by little, and a 4-0 run late in the set to win the set and match 25-16, 3-1.
“We had a lot of inexperience on the court,” said Goulding. “At any given time we had three or four girls on the court with no game-time experience. But we have a lot to work with this year and we will continue to improve.”
The Cougars will next play Middle Tennessee Saturday at 11 a.m. MT and South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. MT. Check back to www.byucougars.com for scores and updates.