No. 9 BYU sweeps Utah behind middle blockers' play
SALT LAKE CITY – Middle blockers Amy Boswell and Whitney Young Howard led No. 9 BYU women’s volleyball to a sweep (25-16, 25-18, 25-22) Thursday night against Utah to win the Deseret First Duel for a fifth-consecutive year.
“It's so great to see so many people come out on a Thursday night to support college volleyball,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “We try and put pressure on teams with our serve. We want to get teams out of system so that our block can take over. We're just trying to serve tough to make the other team uncomfortable, and that's what happened tonight.”
Boswell led the Cougars with seven kills on a .583 clip while Howard led the team in blocks with a season high 11. Alohi Robins-Hardy collected 21 assists while Ciara Parker added a team-high 11 digs. Additionally, Alexa Gray had a team-high 11 kills in the win.
A Gray kill got BYU (9-1) on the board first en route to a 4-2 advantage to begin the first set. Utah (6-5) kept the score close, however, after a Cougar error narrowed BYU’s lead back to two, 9-7. The Cougars scored the next three points to go up 12-7, forcing a timeout from the Utes. BYU continued to extend its lead following the break, going up 18-10 back-to-back Howard blocks. The Cougars cruised from there, taking the set 25-16 on a Boswell kill.
A Cosy Burnett service ace helped BYU take a 4-1 edge early in the second set. The teams traded points from there until a Veronica Jones kill helped the Cougars go up by six, 10-4. Utah stayed in the set after a 4-2 rally brought it back within five, down 14-9. The scoring went back-and-forth again until another Howard block extended BYU’s advantage at 19-12. The Utes struggled to find an offensive balance from there until three-straight Utah points forced Olmstead to take a timeout with her team up by six, 23-17. Gray scored the final two points for the Cougars on kills as BYU took the set 25-18.
The Utes took an early 3-1 advantage in the third set before a Boswell ace helped the Cougars go up for the first time in the set, 5-4. BYU then struggled defensively as a 6-2 Utah run gave it a 10-7 lead, forcing a Cougar timeout. BYU followed the lengthy Ute rally with a 4-0 run of its own, bringing the Cougars within a point, down 12-11. Utah then heated up, going on a 7-1 run to take a 19-12 advantage. BYU, fueled by plays from Camry Godfrey Willardson, then went on an 8-2 run to come back within a point, down 21-20. Blocks by Burnett and Howard then gave the Cougars a 23-22 edge. Consecutive attack errors from the Utes then ended the set and match 25-22 for BYU.
The Cougars continue action on the road Saturday at 7 p.m. MDT when they travel to the PE Building to face Utah Valley. The match will be broadcast live on the WAC Digital Network. Links to live stats and the video feed can be found on the BYU women’s volleyball schedule page.
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