No. 7 seed BYU heads to Pittsburgh for First Round match against JMU


PROVO, Utah — No. 7 seed BYU women’s volleyball travels to Pittsburgh this week as it begins the 2022 NCAA Division I Tournament, playing James Madison in a First Round matchup at the Petersen Events Center on Friday afternoon.

The Cougars (21-6, 15-3 WCC) remained at No. 18 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll this week, marking the 150th-consecutive week that BYU has been ranked in the Top 25 dating back to 2013.

Taking the opening set off of then-No. 2 San Diego last Tuesday, BYU ultimately had a seven-match win streak snapped at the hands of the Toreros in the Cougars’ final regular season and West Coast Conference match.

BYU received double-digit kill efforts from middle blocker Heather Gneiting (13 kills), outside hitter Erin Livingston (13 kills) and middle blocker Whitney Llarenas (12 kills), while setter Whitney Bower dished out 44 assists. 

Gneiting and Llarenas contributed three blocks each in the match, with liberos Aria McComber and Kelsey Knudsen adding 13 and 11 digs, respectively. 

No. 7 seed BYU vs. James Madison

The Cougars have made 11-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including all eight seasons during BYU head coach Heather Olmstead’s tenure. Olmstead is 14-7 all-time in the postseason, with six trips to the Sweet 16 and a Final four run in 2018.

Dropping a three-setter to then-No. 8 Ohio State in Atlanta back in September, the Cougars are 0-1 in their only neutral site game this season. BYU is 1-4 in neutral site NCAA Tournament games under Olmstead, but 8-0 against unranked or unseeded teams in Tournament play with her at the helm.

Outside of the spring 2020-21 season where the NCAA Tournament was held entirely at a neutral site, this is the first postseason that the Cougars have traveled for their First Round match since 2014, when BYU made a run to the NCAA title game. 

BYU enters the NCAA Tournament with the fifth-highest hitting percentage in the nation, at .297. The Cougars also rank No. 15 in kills per set (14.02) and No. 21 in assists per set (12.96), concluding the regular season as WCC-leaders in all three statistical categories.

Llarenas led the conference and sits at No. 16 nationally with a .401 season hitting clip. Leading the team with 134 total blocks, Gneiting averages 1.22 blocks per set, a mark good for No. 53 in the country.

Finishing the regular season atop the WCC in kills per set (4.39) and attacks per set (10.46), Livingston ranks in the Top 25 in two metrics: No. 16 in kills per set and also No. 24 in points per set, averaging 4.88. 

James Madison (24-4, 15-1 Sun Belt)

  • The Sun Belt champion Dukes have won 15-consecutive matches, with their last loss occurring in four sets on Oct. 1 at Texas State 
  • After winning its first three games, JMU also went on a five-match win streak during the season
  • James Madison won three matches en route to its Sun Belt title, sweeping Georgia Southern, beating Troy in five and avenging its earlier loss to Texas State with a four-set win to clinch the championship 
  • Miëtte Veldman and Sophie Davis lead JMU offensively, with 416 and 314 kills, respectively. Caroline Dozier directs the Dukes with 957 assists on the year.
  • Jaydyn Clemmer (348 digs) and Veldman (244 digs) pace the team in digs, while Davis has a team-high 146 total blocks
  • Julia McNeley and Madilyn O’Toole are team-leaders in service aces, with 45 and 44, respectively
  • In 13 seasons as head coach at James Madison, Lauren Steinbrecher has a 241-118 (.671) record
  • This is the first meeting between BYU and JMU in volleyball. The two schools have met twice in men’s basketball back in 1990 and 1991, and five times in softball from 2014 to 2018. 

The winner of the BYU-JMU match will take on the winner of the Pitt-Colgate nightcap at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. EST. All three matches will be streamed on ESPN+.