MORAGA, Calif. – No. 9 BYU women’s volleyball swept past Saint Mary’s (25-12, 25-22, 29-27) on Saturday for the Cougars’ third win of the week and eighth straight overall.
Freshman setter Whitney Bower became the first Cougar in the rally scoring era to total at least six kills, 20 assists and 15 digs, finishing with six kills, 30 assists and 16 digs while adding two blocks. Bower also broke a BYU rally era freshman record with her sixth double-double.
Sophomore Madelyn Robinson added 10 kills, six digs and the match-winning ace while sophomore Heather Gneiting notched nine kills, four blocks and an ace for the Cougars. Junior Taylen Ballard-Nixon also provided a spark off the bench with a career-best three aces to go with five kills and two blocks.
"I liked the fight we had in the third set when we found ourselves down," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "Taylen came in and gave us a nice spark that we needed. I'm proud of the way we keep working hard to get better."
The Cougars came out strong to start the match, hitting .538 in the set. Gneiting, Bower and Robinson had four kills apiece as BYU held the Gaels to a -.042 hitting percentage. BYU opened the set up with five unanswered points to take a 9-3 lead behind a kill from Bower and two kills by Robinson. Another 5-0 run, including two kills from Gneiting, an ace by Grace Wee, a Bower kill and a block by Gneiting and Robinson, gave BYU a 20-9 lead. From there, the Cougars took the set, 25-12.
The Gaels and Cougars battled closely in the second set, with the score alternating between a tie and a Saint Mary’s lead. However, down 8-7, BYU got a kill by Gneiting, an ace from Ballard-Nixon, a McKenna Miller kill and a Gael error to pull ahead, 11-8. A block by Kennedy Eschenberg and Miller capped off the set, 25-22.
Saint Mary’s went on a 10-2 run, turning a BYU lead into a 13-8 advantage before Ballard-Nixon could end the run with a kill. The junior then led the Cougars back into contention, assisting on a block with Eschenberg before serving back-to-back aces to cut the Gaels’ lead to 14-12. From that point on, play went back and forth until Saint Mary’s had set point at 25-24. But the Cougars staved off the Gaels on that point and two other potential set-ending opportunities, including a kill by Robinson to tie the match at 27-27. A kill by Gneiting and Robinson’s ace sealed the sweep.
BYU will take its eight-match win streak back to Provo next week, taking on San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. MT before playing Santa Clara at home on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 1 p.m. MT.