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Cougars sweep SUU Thunderbirds in 2021 season opener

PROVO, Utah — No. 15 BYU women’s volleyball opened its 2021 campaign with a convincing sweep (25-11, 25-16, 25-13) of Southern Utah in the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday afternoon.

“We have been really excited and have worked really hard this preseason for this moment,” said BYU outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon. “A win like this gives our team a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season.”

Ballard-Nixon led all Cougars with 14 kills on a .480 clip. Kenzie Koerber and Kennedy Eschenberg both registered six kills and combined for three blocks. As a team, the Cougars outhit the Thunderbirds with 44 kills and a .391 hitting percentage to SUU’s 19 kills on a .035 clip.

"I'm super proud of our passing tonight,” Ballard-Nixon said. “We had a lot of middle swings, and our out-of-system sets from the back row were really good. That put us in good places to make place and place the ball."

The Cougars had eight players with two or more kills. As a team, they totaled seven service aces, 43 digs and six blocks in the three-set win over the Thunderbirds.

Set One

The Cougars got off to a hot start, winning six of the first seven points of the match before giving up a point to an SUU kill. The Cougars then went on a six-point run, including two aces from Koerber to take a 12-2 lead early. They finished the set by winning seven of the last 10 points to cap off a decisive first-set victory. BYU held the Thunderbirds to 11 points, five kills and a .038 hitting percentage in the first set in contrast to their .478 with 13 kills, 14 digs and five service aces in a dominant first-set victory.

Set Two

The Thunderbirds and Cougars traded the first 11 points of the set to give the Cougars a 6-5 lead early in the second set. The Cougars opened an 11-6 lead thanks to four straight kills. SUU pulled even by winning four of five points before the Cougars strung together seven straight points including an ace from Ballard-Nixon to take command and win the second set 25-16.

Set Three

The Cougars won nine of the first 12 points to take an early 9-3 lead in the third. SUU put together a run of its own that cut the deficit to three before BYU went on a 13-4 run to close out the third set in dominating fashion. BYU hit .314 in the third set with 16 kills and a block.

BYU will take the court in its second game of the day, taking on the Long Island Sharks at 7 p.m. back in the Smith Fieldhouse.