Cameron Muh | Posted: 1 Oct 2022 | Updated: 11 Oct 2022

Balanced attack leads No. 15 Cougars past Bulldogs

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Erin Livingston swings during BYU's 2022 Blue-White game

SPOKANE, Wash. — Four Cougar hitters finished with double-digit kills as No. 15 BYU women’s volleyball beat Gonzaga in four sets (23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-22) at Charlotte Y. Martin Centre on Saturday afternoon.


Outside hitters Erin Livingston and Elyse Stowell finished with 17 and 14 kills, respectively, with middle blockers Heather Gneiting (13 kills) and Whitney Llarenas (11 kills) also putting down 10+ kills. All four hitters recorded a hitting percentage of .367 or better. 

Making back-to-back starts, Stowell set a new career-high in kills for the second time in as many games. The outside hitter also set career-highs in digs (3) and blocks (2). With 18 digs, Livingston set a new career-high as well. 

The Cougars (11-3, 4-0 WCC) tallied 65 kills on a .313 clip, holding the Bulldogs to just .160 hitting and 46 kills. 65 kills tied a season-high as BYU also recorded 65 kills at Utah earlier in the year. The Cougars also notched 74 digs and 12 blocks, both marks being good for second-best on the season.  

Setter Whitney Bower tied her career-high with 55 assists, and Gneiting tied her season-high with seven total blocks. Liberos Kelsey Knudsen and Aria McComber finished with 17 and 14 digs, respectively.  

Set 1
Kate Grimmer landed a match-opening kill off the block, but Gonzaga took the next six points, led by three-consecutive aces, forcing an early BYU timeout. The Bulldogs extended their run to 8-0 with two more points coming out of the timeout before Gneiting slammed down a slide kill to end the run at 8-2. 

A pair of Llarenas kills and four by Stowell cut into the Gonzaga lead, at 14-8. Gneiting and Bower sent back a double block, a Bower dump kill and Gneiting slide kill spanned a 4-0 BYU run that had the Cougars within three, at 14-11.

Three Livingston kills and a Bulldog error made it 17-16, Gonzaga. Livingston and Llarenas combined for a double block before Grimmer scored on a tip kill, locking up the set at 18-18, and the Bulldogs took a timeout. 

Llarenas got a solo block out of the timeout, but Gonzaga scored the next three points, going ahead 21-19 before BYU took its second timeout. A quick Llarenas kill in the middle sandwiched two Bulldog kills before Gneiting and Stowell made it 23-22, Gonzaga.

A solo Gneiting block staved off the Bulldog’s first set point, but Gonzaga’s Kennedy Croft landed a kill to win set one for the Bulldogs, 25-23. 

Set 2
The Cougars got off to a hot start in the second, with two Gneiting aces to kick things off, and a Llarenas slide kill. After a Gonzaga timeout, Livingston put down a kill to make it 5-2, BYU. Another Llarenas kill and block by Llarenas and Grimmer then made it 7-3.

Tips kills by Llarenas and Stowell and a quick kill by Gneiting had the Cougars in front 10-7. On two slides, a solo block and then a double block with Bower, Gneiting extended BYU’s lead to 14-9. 

Another Gneiting kill, a Llarenas slide and Bulldog error kept BYU ahead by five, at 17-12. Livingston and Llarenas each landed kills before Gneiting got a quick hitter in the middle, putting the Cougars in front 20-14, forcing a Gonzaga timeout. 

Stowell sent back a solo block before a Grimmer kill and Alyssa Montoya ace put BYU in front, 23-16. A Gonzaga service error and the Cougars’ third ace of the set, placed in the back corner by McComber, gave BYU the 25-18 set win, tying the match a one set apiece.

Set 3
Livingston helped the Cougars begin the third set in similar fashion to the second, hammering home three kills and a service ace. A 4-0 BYU run, backed by kills from Stowell and Grimmer, a Gneiting-Grimmer double block and Knudsen ace had the Cougars doubling up on the Bulldogs, 8-4. 

Kills from Grimmer, Stowell and Gneiting then made it 11-9, with two Livingston kills putting BYU in front 13-11. Gonzaga rallied with three-straight points to take a one-point lead, but Stowell and Gneiting put down kills to give the Cougars a 15-14 lead heading into the media timeout. 

Another 3-0 Bulldog run had Gonzaga in front 17-15. Stowell and Livingston aided BYU’s rally with two kills each as the Cougars tied the set at 20 and then took a 21-20 lead on back-to-back Bulldog errors, leading to a Gonzaga timeout.

Llarenas scored on a quick-hitter and Livingston put one down as well, making it 23-20 and bringing up the Bulldogs’ second timeout. Grimmer and Llarenas combined for a double block to give BYU set point, which Gonzaga fought off twice before a Livingston kill off the block closed out the third set for the Cougars, 25-22. 

Set 4
After Gonzaga took the first point of the set, BYU went on two separate 3-0 runs to take a 6-3 lead. Following a 4-0 Cougar run that featured kills from Stowell and Bower, and double block by Gneiting a Stowell, BYU took a 10-4 advantage into a Gonzaga timeout.

Three-straight points from the Bulldogs cut the lead to three, but kills by Stowell and Gneiting fueled a 4-0 run that helped the Cougars stretch their lead to seven at 14-7. Livingston went off the block from the back row, Bower and Gneiting teamed up for a double block and another Gonzaga error had BYU ahead 17-8 as the Bulldogs called a timeout.

Taking seven of the next eight points, Gonzaga made it a three-point set, at 18-15, forcing a Cougar timeout. A Livingston kill ended the 7-0 Bulldog run that spanned BYU’s timeout before landing a cross-court kill to make it 20-18. 

Not going down without a fight, however, Gonzaga tied things up at both 20- and 21-all before Grimmer and Stowell both went off the block to give the Cougars a 23-21 lead. A Bulldog error gave BYU match point, which Gonzaga staved off once, but Gneiting put away a slide kill to end it on the next play, giving the Cougars a 25-22 set win and 3-1 match win.

The Cougars will return home to host Santa Clara in Provo on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. MDT. The match will be televised on BYUtv and streamed on the BYUtv app

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