PROVO, Utah — No. 10 BYU women’s volleyball claimed its second victory of the 2022 season in front of a record crowd, knocking off the Duke Blue Devils 3-1 (25-14, 25-19, 19-25, 25-19) at the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday night.
“We’ve been working since January and these first two games showed that we are ready for the upcoming season,” said BYU senior middle blocker Heather Gneiting. “I just loved our energy. We were calm and we came back strong from the third set.”
The home crowd of 5,507 at the Smith Fieldhouse set the women’s volleyball attendance record, the most since 5,472 witnessed BYU take on Utah in 2018.
Gneiting led the Cougars with a career-high 15 kills on 22 swings, besting her previous record of 13 kills at Portland in 2018. She also tallied five blocks, five digs and two service aces.
Junior outside hitter Erin Livingston also contributed 11 kills, three blocks, two digs and two aces. The Cougars recorded 47 kills while hitting .208 in the four-set victory. BYU finished with six service aces, 53 digs and nine blocks.
Graduate middle blocker Whitney Llarenas carded nine kills on 13 swings for a .615 clip to best her career high from earlier in the day. She also had seven blocks and two digs. Senior setter Whitney Bower recorded 33 assists, 13 digs, four kills, two blocks, and a service ace.
Early errors by the Cougars led to a three-point deficit early, but BYU would respond with a run of its own. A Duke service error ignited the run followed by a service ace by Gneiting and a kill by Erin Livingston off a Whitney Bower assist to knot the score at 4-4.
With Duke holding an 11-9 lead, the Cougars kickstarted an 8-2 run after another Duke service error. Back-to-back kills by Eden and Whitney Bower and an overpass kill by Llarenas punctuated the run that led to a Duke timeout with the Cougars up 18-13.
Out of the timeout, BYU immediately kept the momentum going with a roof block by Llarenas and Whitney Bower. After a BYU service error, the Cougars would win six straight points to take set one. An overpass kill by Llarenas, her third of the night, capped a 16-3 BYU run to conclude the set.
Livingston recorded a service ace, the Cougars’ fourth of the night, to open an early 6-2 advantage. BYU would continue its streak with a strong recovery and block by Gneiting to go up 7-3.
A kill by Eden Bower began what would become a 5-0 Cougar run to open a 12-4 lead. Duke responded with a kill, followed by three consecutive errors by the Cougars.
With the score at 12-9, BYU rallied off six in a row that included three Duke errors, a service ace by Gneiting and an attack error by the Blue Devils to make it 18-9.
The Blue Devils would respond with a 5-1 run to cut the Cougar lead to five, but multiple Duke errors shifted the momentum back to BYU. A kill from Gneiting gave the Cougars a 23-16 lead before a service error by Duke gave the Cougars their first set point. The Blue Devils fought off one set point before Whitney Bower set up Gneiting for a slide kill to give BYU a 2-0 set lead.
Duke claimed an early 5-0 lead to force an early Cougars timeout. Two Duke kills and three BYU errors in the ensuing points would lead to the Blue Devils continuing their strong start with their first double-digit lead of the night at 10-0.
The Cougars got on the board with a Duke service error at 11-1, but lost the ensuing point on a Blue Devil kill. A kill by Llarenas began a stretch with the Cougars scoring eight out of ten points to slash the deficit to five at 14-9.
With the set at 21-14, Livingston notched her tenth kill of the night to cut the deficit to seven. A service error by the Cougars was followed by a kill by Kate Grimmer and service ace by Livingston to mark her second of the contest to make it 22-17.
Despite cutting the hole to 23-19 and being down four for the first time since 0-4, the Blue Devils would go on to win 25-19 following a reversed call.
A back-and-forth early start had the score locked at 5-5. Duke errors made up three of the next four points as the Cougars took a 9-5 lead.
Whitney Bower’s 30th assist of the night led to Gneiting’s 13th kill as the Cougars went up 13-9. A kill by Whitney Bower and two ensuing errors by the Blue Devils opened a seven-point lead for BYU.
Duke would chip away at BYU’s lead to make it 19-15, but made three errors in the next four plays.
With the score at 22-16, Duke placed two kills to cut BYU’s lead to four before the Cougars took the set and match off a kill and solo block by Gneiting.
BYU will take on Washington State tomorrow for its third game in two days at 7 p.m. MDT in the Smith Fieldhouse. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and the BYUtv app. Fans will need tickets for the 7 p.m. contest against the Cougars.