PROVO, Utah – Five players had eight kills or more and BYU held Florida to a .159 hitting percentage as the Cougars defeated Florida in four sets (23-25, 25-13, 25-17, 25-19) on Friday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
BYU (30-1) will now make its 11th appearance in the Elite Eight of the tourney and the first since 2014 when the Cougars finished national runners-up in the NCAA Championships.
"I'm so proud of this team," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "They battled so hard tonight and played within themselves. The crowd was electric and we thank them for showing up. We are looking forward to keeping this journey going and playing tomorrow."
To view BYU Photo's photo essay on the match, click here.
Senior Roni Jones-Perry had a match-high 17 kills with nine digs, two aces and two blocks. Sophomore Kennedy Eschenberg contributed 11 kills on a .526 hitting percentage while also contributing seven blocks.
Freshmen Madelyn Robinson and Heather Gneiting notched 10 and eight kills, respectively, with Gneiting adding seven blocks. Senior Lacy Haddock also put down eight kills with six blocks to round out a strong offensive effort.
Senior Lyndie Haddock-Eppich contributed 44 assists and 10 digs while senior Sydnie Martindale and junior Mary Lake provided crucial defense with 10 digs apiece. The Cougars were also able to keep two Florida powerhouses at bay, limiting Rachael Kramer and Taelor Kellum to -.083 and -.167 hitting percentages, respectively, after the pair came into the match hitting above .300 on the season.
Florida (26-7) came out strong in the first set, taking a 5-0 lead that included two Gator kills. BYU fought back within one point of Florida’s lead, 9-8, off of a long rally ending in a Gator error. A dump kill by Haddock-Eppich and a block by Eschenberg and Jones-Perry got the team energized and tied the game up 15-15. However, the Cougars were unable to gain the lead, and Florida took the set, 25-23, off a Gator kill.
BYU beat Florida to the punch and took the first lead of the second set, 2-0, off of a Jones-Perry kill. The Cougars followed this with a 5-2 run, putting the score at 10-6, and forced a Florida timeout. A block by Haddock and Eschenberg and kills by Robinson and Haddock added to a BYU 8-1 run, putting the score at 19-10. BYU maintained the lead and took the second set, 25-13, notching three more kills.
A kill by Eschenberg followed by her shared block with Haddock put the Cougars up, 7-3. Kills by Robinson and Gneiting paired with a Haddock-Eppich and Gneiting block ultimately led to another Cougar set win, 25-17.
BYU again took an early lead with Jones-Perry contributing two kills and an ace to give the Cougars an 8-5 edge. BYU kept at least a two-point lead throughout the middle of the set, and a second Jones-Perry ace forced Florida to take a timeout at 18-12. BYU maintained the lead for the rest of the set and claimed the match, 25-19, with kills by Eschenberg and Haddock and a block by Haddock and Gneiting.
The Cougars return to the court against No. 5 seed Texas on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. MT in the Smith Fieldhouse. The game will be shown live on ESPNU with the winner advancing to the Final Four to be held in Minneapolis next week.
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