No. 17 Cougars down No. 5 Panthers to open 2023 campaign

No. 17 BYU women’s volleyball took down No. 5 Pitt, 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-19) in its season opener at Dahlberg Arena on Friday afternoon.


MISSOULA, Mont. — No. 17 BYU women’s volleyball took down No. 5 Pitt, 3-1 (23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-19) in its season opener at Dahlberg Arena on Friday afternoon.

The win marked the program’s first over a top-5 opponent since 2019, when it beat No. 2 Stanford on the road.


The Cougars opened up their 2023 campaign and Ellesyn Invitational competition by hitting .225, holding the Panthers to a .034 hitting percentage for the match. BYU overcame 15 service errors, including six in the opening set, but out-blocked Pitt 14 to 10 en route to victory.

Outside hitter Erin Livingston finished with a game-high 19 kills and 11 digs. Freshman and fellow outside Claire Little added 11 digs as well. Freshman middle blocker Mia Lee totaled six kills on a .462 clip, also adding eight blocks, a game high.

Setter Whitney Bower joined Livingston with a double-double performance of her own, tallying 34 assists and 19 digs, surpassing the 1,000-career dig total during the match. In her first start with the Cougars, libero Kamaile Hiapo recorded 14 digs and eight assists.

Photo Credit: Derek Johnson & Tanner Ecker, Montana

Set 1
Weathering a 5-0 run early, BYU faced an 8-2 deficit before clawing back. A 3-0 Cougar run cut the Pitt advantage to three, at 15-13, forcing a Panther timeout. Two Livingston kills tied the set, for the first time since 1-1, at 17.

A double block from Kate Prior and Lee led BYU to its first lead of the set, at 20-19, and Pitt took its second timeout. The Panthers took six of the next nine points from there, however, picking up a 25-23 first set win.

Set 2
A Bower dump kill and another Livingston kill helped BYU to an early lead in the second set. The Cougars maintained the lead with a 4-0 run, highlighted by kills from Little and Lee, and a Livingston ace, to go in front 11-6.

Prior and Lee combined for another double block before Little and Whitney McEwan-Llarenas sent back a double block of their own, doubling up the Panthers at 14-7, and forcing a Pitt timeout.

A Kate Prior kill capped off BYU’s second 4-0 run of the set before the Panthers went on their own 4-0 run, with the Cougars taking a timeout ahead 15-11. Little landed a cross-court kill to stop a 3-0 Pitt stretch, and Pitt’s first service error of the match gave BYU a 19-15 lead.

A trio of kills from Bower, Livingston and Little made it 23-18, Cougars. Another Panther service error and a cross-court kill off the block from Little helped BYU knot the match at one set apiece, 25-23.

Set 3
Going back-and-forth early in the third, the Cougars got a dump kill down the line from Bower, a double block by Prior and Lee, as well as kills from Lee and McEwan-Llarenas. Pitt countered BYU’s 3-0 run with a 5-0 run that spanned a BYU timeout to go up 12-8.

The Cougars then opened up their own 5-0 run that featured another Bower dump, Livingston kill, service ace from Hannah Billeter and two-straight blocks from Lee, the second alongside Livingston, to lead 16-14 and force a Panther timeout.

Back-to-back Livingston kills, a quick hitter from Lee and a Livingston ace highlighted a span of five BYU points in six plays, putting the Cougars ahead 21-16 and forcing Pitt’s second timeout.

Prior went cross court and Bower scored on another dump kill to give BYU set point, which Livingston finished, going off the block to secure the 25-19 set victory and put the Cougars ahead two sets to one.

Set 4
BYU raced out to a 6-3 advantage on a pair of kills by Livingston and another from Bower. Both teams then went on 3-0 runs, with the latter keeping the Cougars in front by three on a double block from Little and Lee.

Three kills by Little, along with a double block from McEwan-Llarenas and Bower, and a McEwan-Llarenas kill, put BYU in front 15-9, forcing both of Pitt’s timeouts. Back-to-back Livingston kills, one out of the back row and another cross court put BYU ahead 17-10.

A 3-0 Cougar run fueled by two double blocks involving Prior, Lee and Little as well as a cross court Prior kill made it 22-13. Little scored off the block and a Panther error gave BYU match point, which Pitt fought off twice before Prior and McEwan-Llarenas teamed up for a stuff to seal the 25-16 fourth set and 3-1 match win.

Up Next
The Cougars will play a doubleheader on Saturday, Aug. 25 to complete their time at the Ellesyn Invitational. They'll take on Texas Rio Grande Valley at noon MT, before a matchup with host Montana at 7 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on ESPN+.