2020-21 Season Preview


After having its season initially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 BYU women’s volleyball team will finally get its chance to compete this spring.

Eleven returnees join four newcomers on a squad that will look to keep a streak of eight NCAA Tournament appearances going. Last year, the Cougars went 26-5 and ended No. 17 in the final AVCA poll after reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

WCC coaches have picked BYU to finish second in the conference and national coaches have ranked the Cougars No. 16 in the AVCA preseason poll. BYU head coach Heather Olmstead and her staff bring a .889 winning percentage over the last five seasons, the highest of any Division I program in the country (min. of two seasons).

Below is a look at this year’s roster by position.

Middle Blocker

BYU returns All-America honoree Kennedy Eschenberg in the middle. The senior ranked 53rd in the nation and third in the WCC with 134 total blocks last season (1.20 blocks per set). Eschenberg led the team with a .353 hitting percentage (min. of 200 attempts) while totaling 195 kills.

Junior Whitney Llarenas saw limited action in the middle last season, but the AVCA Under Armour High School All-American will look to contribute this year. True freshman Allie Hakes, an AVCA Under Armour All-American herself, will also compete to be in the mix.

Outside Hitter

Senior Taylen Ballard-Nixon will look to have an even larger role on this year’s squad with the graduation of All-American McKenna Miller. The senior finished the 2019 season with 139 kills (1.81 kills per set), 56 blocks, 52 digs and 14 aces.

Sophomore Abbey Dayton also brings experience to the position while redshirt freshman Erin Livingston will seek playing time as she begins her collegiate career. Incoming freshman Leilani Dodson, who was named the 33rd-best senior in the nation by PrepVolleyball, will also join the group.

Opposite Hitter

The lone opposite on last year’s squad, Kate Grimmer will look to build off of a strong freshman campaign for the Cougars. Grimmer contributed 124 kills in 74 sets while adding 51 blocks and 48 digs to her 2019 stat line.

Grimmer will be joined this season by freshman Makayla Tolman, who has been with the program since last January after graduating from high school early. Tolman ranked 44th on PrepVolleyball’s Senior Ace list.


Whitney Bower started every set for the Cougars as a true freshman last year. Bower finished second in aces and aces per set, fourth in assists and sets played, sixth in assists per set, seventh in digs per set and eighth in digs in the BYU freshman record book.

Junior Tayler Hifo also brings experience to the position as she enters her third season with the program.


Three Cougars are vying to take over at libero following the loss of All-American Mary Lake to graduation. Sophomores Morgan Bower and Grace Wee along with freshman Madi Allen are all competing for playing time.

BYU is currently scheduled to play a conference-only schedule this spring. The Cougars begin their season with a two-match road trip against Portland on Jan. 26-27.