Women's volleyball 2021 season preview
PROVO, Utah — After finishing the unprecedented 2020-21 spring season ranked No. 15 and on top of the West Coast Conference, BYU is returning to a traditional fall season, starting up Aug. 27.
This fall, BYU will welcome five high school recruits and three transfers. Volleyball Mag has ranked the incoming class No. 7 in the country. This is the third time in four years that the Cougars incoming class is ranked in the top 10.
Below is a look at this year’s roster by position.
The Cougars bring experience in the middle position with fifth-year Kennedy Eschenberg and senior Whitney Llarenas. Eschenberg, a 2020-21 All- American, finished the spring season ranked No. 6 in the NCAA with 1.58 blocks per set, leading the team with 82 total blocks. In the 2021 spring season Llarenas appeared in 21 sets, totaling 20 kills, 14 blocks, seven digs and two aces. All- American and 2018 National Freshman of the Year Heather Gneiting is returning for her junior season after serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rounding out the middles is Bri Albright, a 6-foot-3-inch incoming freshman out of Ladera Ranch, Calif.
Senior Taylen Ballard-Nixon, 2021 All-America honorable mention, leads the squad of BYU outside hitters. Ballard-Nixon finished the spring season averaging 3.79 kills per set and 4.38 points per set to lead the Cougars in both categories. Abbey Dayton and Erin Livingston, both contributors in the 2020-21 season, will be looking for lots of time on the court. Three top highs chool outside hitters, Sophia Callihan, Alyssa Montoya and Elize Stowell, add to the Cougars outside depth this season.
Three time All-American opposite Kenzie Koerber joins the Cougars after four years at the University of Utah. Koerber finished 2020-21 with the Utes in the round of 32, tallying 163 kills, 39 blocks and 26 aces on the season. All-WCC junior Kate Grimmer is the only other opposite on the team. The left-handed hitter had 185 kills on a .322 clip last season, second most on the team.
Whitney Bower returns for her junior season after leading one of the most efficient offenses in the country. The 2020 WCC Player and Setter of the Year, ended the year with 676 assists, 221 digs, 48 kills, 28 blocks and 22 aces, while tallying 11 double-doubles in 19 matches. Senior Tylor Hifo appeared in all 63 sets in the 2020-21 season, contributing 18 aces, 23 digs and 16 assists. True freshman Zayna Meyer joins the Cougars at setter out of Wheaton, Ill.
There are four women looking for playing time in the libero spot this season. Sophomore Madi Allen started all 19 matches and led the Cougars with 265 digs in the spring season. Grad transfer Aria McComber comes to BYU out of Washington State. In 2020-21 she played in all 62 sets and was second on the team with 158 digs and 59 assists. Additional transfer Gretchen Reinert comes to BYU from Santa Clara. Starting all 18 matches for the Broncos in 2020-21, Reinert finished the year with 225 digs, 65 assists and 17 aces. Averaging 3.46 digs per set, she reached double-figure digs in all but four of the matches this year. Morgan Bower is also available as libero this season. The junior played in 13 sets last season and recorded 11 digs.
BYU begins the 2021 season at home in the Doterra Classic Aug 27. and 28. The complete 2021 schedule can be found HERE