Bower’s career night leads No. 12 BYU to five-set win at Pepperdine
MALIBU, Calif. – Sophomore setter Whitney Bower’s career highs of 26 digs and eight kills helped No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball hand Pepperdine its first loss in a five-set thriller (24-26, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13) at the Firestone Fieldhouse on Wednesday.
Bower filled the final box score with a stat line of 46 assists, 26 digs, eight kills on a .727 clip, four blocks and three aces. She is the first BYU player in the rally era (2001-present) to record at least four kills, 10 assists, 16 digs, two aces and three blocks in a single match.
Freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston led the Cougars with a career-high 16 kills. Sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer and senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon both reached double-digit kills with 14 and 12, respectively. Ballard-Nixon matched her career high of 13 digs for her second double-double of the season.
Freshman libero Madi Allen earned her second collegiate double-double with a career-high 25 digs and 10 assists. Sophomore defensive specialist Grace Wee also set a career high in digs with 15. Senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and freshman outside hitter Leilani Dodson led the team with seven blocks apiece, marking a new career high for Dodson.
BYU (8-1, 7-1 WCC) finished the match with 94 total digs, the most in a single match since 2016. Both the Cougars and Pepperdine (7-1, 7-1 WCC) finished the night with 14 blocks, the most blocks by either team this season.
Two kills and an ace by Ballard-Nixon helped the Cougars to an 11-6 lead to open the first game. With Pepperdine surging, Livingston tallied three kills to keep BYU up 19-18. The two teams battled back and forth with a kill by Bower tying the match at 24-all before two-straight kills by the Waves ended the set, 26-24.
Back-to-back blocks by Dodson and Grimmer gave the Cougars a 4-1 edge to begin the second set. Three kills by Livingston and two kills by Eschenberg helped BYU maintain a three-point advantage, 11-8. Pepperdine came back to take a 22-21 lead late in the set. Dodson connected on two kills to fuel a 4-1 Cougar run to win the set 25-23.
The Waves jumped out to a 7-2 lead to start the third game and remained in control for the entire set. Dodson dropped two kills and an ace in an 8-2 run that brought the score within two points, 18-16. Pepperdine countered with a 7-3 run to close out the set, 25-19.
Three kills by Livingston and an ace by Bower gave BYU a seven-point advantage in the fourth game, 12-5. The Waves rallied back to close the deficit to two points, 18-16. Grimmer connected on two kills to set up match point and a dump kill by Bower forced a fifth set, 25-21.
Ballard-Nixon dropped an ace and Livingston added two kills to give the Cougars an 8-7 edge in the final set. Grimmer connected on a pair of kills and Bower won a joust at the net to maintain a one-point lead, 12-11. A kill by Livingston and a solo block by Eschenberg secured the comeback win, 15-13.
BYU women’s volleyball will remain on the road for a two-match series against San Francisco March 5-6 in War Memorial Gym. Both matches are scheduled to start at noon PST. Broadcast information will be released in the coming week.