BYU sweeps WKU to advance to fourth-consecutive Sweet Sixteen
PROVO, Utah – No. 13 seed BYU women's volleyball advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the fourth-consecutive year after sweeping Western Kentucky (25-23, 25-17, 25-20) Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse.
“Congrats to Western Kentucky on a great season," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "I thought it was a great match. I'm super proud of our team and how we played. It was a great couple of days of back-to-back matches. We're excited for the opportunity to move on and keep playing volleyball."
BYU (28-3, 16-2 West Coast Conference) out-hit Western Kentucky (32-4, 15-1 Conference USA) with a .433 clip compared to .245. The Lady Toppers had five aces in the game, but the Cougars bested them in the blocks category 9.5 to 4.
Alexa Gray led all players with 22 kills. She had a .541 clip while also adding five digs and two blocks. Amy Boswell led in the blocks category with six while adding 10 kills in the win. Freshman Lacy Haddock added nine kills and seven digs, which was a team-high. Splitting setting duties, Camry Godfrey Willardson had 23 assists and Alohi Robins-Hardy had 13.
Western Kentucky had the early momentum after starting off the first set with an ace. However, back-to-back kills from Boswell and Haddock put BYU up 6-4 early on. Another ace for the Lady Toppers gave them the 10-9 lead after going on a 4-1 run. A pair of kills from Boswell and Haddock sparked the Cougars to go on a 4-0 rally to take the 16-13 lead. With a kill from Gray tipped off of the blocker, BYU took the first set 25-23. Gray scored three of BYU’s last four points to win the set.
The Lady Toppers started off the second set hot, going on a 4-0 run early to go up 8-5. A stuff block from Cosy Burnett and Whitney Young Howard tied up the game at 8-8. The Cougars started to run away with the set after going on a 7-0 rally that included three blocks by Boswell. The last six points for BYU were scored on kills by Gray and Boswell, with Gray killing the ball four times and Boswell three. Gray came sailing out of the back row for the set-winning kill, handling Western Kentucky 25-17 and taking the 2-0 lead.
BYU jumped out to a quick 2-0 edge in the third set after Western Kentucky overpassed the ball and Gray got a kill off of the opportunity. The teams traded points, continually tying the game back up, until the Lady Toppers went on a 3-0 run to go up 10-7. Howard earned back-to-back points for the Cougars on a block and kill to tie the game back up a 10-10.
Western Kentucky dug themselves into a hole after committing four errors in a row, resulting in points for BYU. An ace from Makenna Santiago and a kill by Boswell capped off the 6-0 run for the Cougars, giving them the 18-12 lead. The Lady Toppers fought back, going on a 3-0 run to get within three, 21-18. However, errors came back to bite them, resulting in three points in a row for the Cougars. Gray finished them off with a cross-court kill, giving BYU the 25-20 win and the sweep.
BYU will face No. 4 seed Nebraska in the regional semifinals in Lexington, Kentucky, on Friday, Dec. 11. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Tickets are available to purchase on the Kentucky Ticket Office website. Links to live stats and a video feed can be found on the BYU women's volleyball schedule page.