Balanced Attack Leads No. 12 BYU Over Gonzaga in Home Opener
PROVO, Utah — Four Cougars finished with double-digit kills as No. 12 BYU women's volleyball defeated Gonzaga 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-12, 25-17) in its home opener at the Smith Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the way for the Cougars, finishing with 17 kills and six digs. Freshman outside hitter Leilani Dodson added a career-high 13 kills, freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston finished with a career-high 12 kills and sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer landed 11 kills. Junior middle blocker Whitney Llarenas had a career high of seven kills on a .700 clip while sophomore setter Whitney Bower totaled a season-high six kills.
BYU (4-0, 3-0 WCC) hit an exceptional .423 on the night while holding Gonzaga (1-2, 1-2 WCC) to .132. Freshman libero Madi Allen recorded her first career double-double with 18 digs and a career-high 13 assists. Along with her six kills, Bower also finished with 18 digs, matching her career high, while tallying 43 assists and a pair of aces.
The Cougars opened up an early 7-2 lead, paced by three Ballard-Nixon kills. That lead quickly stretched to 15-7 as Dodson added three kills of her own and Bower dropped two dump kills. BYU doubled up on Gonzaga, 20-10, before taking the set on a net violation, 25-17.
The Cougars found themselves down early in the set before rallying to tie the score at 19-all. An overpass kill by Ballard-Nixon gave BYU the lead at 21-20. After a kill by Livingston made the score 23-22 in the Cougars favor, Gonzaga scored three-straight points to tie up the match at one-game apiece, 25-23.
The two teams battled back and forth to start the third game before a Livingston kill gave BYU an 8-5 edge. An ace by Bower gave the Cougars a five-point lead, 11-6. The Cougars would stretch that advantage to 15-9 at the media timeout midway through the set. Back-to-back kills by Dodson and a block by Llarenas and Bower put BYU ahead by nine, 20-11. The Cougars would close the set on a 6-1 run, with a Llarenas and Livingston block ending the set 25-12.
An early Bower dump kill, her fourth of the match, helped BYU begin the fourth game with a 3-1 edge. Gonzaga took a brief one-point lead before a 5-0 run by the Cougars put them back in front, 9-5. The Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 run of their own to tie it up at 10-all. The Cougars then used a 4-0 run to create a four-point cushion, 17-13. Bower recorded back-to-back dump kills to make the score 22-16. An ace by Bower set up match point and Ballard-Nixon sealed the win with a kill to secure the final set, 25-17.
BYU and Gonzaga are set to face off again tomorrow, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse. The match will be streamed on BYUtv.org and the BYUtv app.