Eight aces, efficient hitting helps No. 12 Cougars sweep Gaels
MORAGA, Calif. — No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball recorded its third-consecutive sweep in West Coast Conference (WCC) play, downing Saint Mary’s, 3-0 (25-18, 25-13, 25-14) at University Credit Union Pavilion on Thursday night.
The Cougars (14-3, 7-0 WCC) responded from a .273 clip and seven attack errors in the first set by hitting .389 in the second and .483 in the third, registering 48 kills on a .378 clip for the match, also tallying 10 blocks and eight service aces, tying a season high.
Outside hitter Erin Livingston finished with a team-high 11 kills, with middle blocker Whitney Llarenas adding 10 kills while hitting .562 on the night. Outside hitter Elyse Stowell (nine kills), opposite hitter Kate Grimmer (eight kills) and middle blocker Heather Gneiting (seven kills) each recorded hitting percentages of .462 or better.
Gneiting led the team with six total blocks. Setter Whitney Bower finished with 30 assists and 12 digs, and Grimmer notched a team-high 13 digs. Bower, outside hitter Alyssa Montoya and liberos Aria McComber and Kelsey Knudsen each carded two service aces against the Gaels.
A slow start to open the match had BYU down by six points early, at 12-6. Two separate 3-0 runs helped the Cougars stay in it, before a surging 6-0 run, led by two Livingston kills and a pair of blocks courtesy of Bower and Gneiting, put BYU in front by two, 16-14.
Two more Livingston kills, sandwiched by a Saint Mary’s timeout, gave the Cougars a 19-15 lead. A couple of Bower service aces, the 98th and 99th of her career, then put BYU ahead 22-16.
Llarenas went on a 3-1 run of her own down the stretch, closing out the set for the Cougars with a slide kill at 25-18.
Building upon its first set momentum, four Llarenas kills and two Stowell kills helped BYU race out to a 10-2 lead in the second as Livingston was back to serve for five of those points.
The Cougars then went on a 7-0 run with McComber at the service line, paced by a pair of kills each from Stowell and Grimmer that had BYU in front 17-4. Another Stowell kill and an ace by Montoya then gave the Cougars a 21-5 advantage.
Weathering a 4-0 Gael run, BYU got kills from Livingston and Bower to bring up match point, with a Llarenas solo block putting Saint Mary’s away, 25-13.
Knudsen opened the third set with an ace. The Cougars followed that up with two Livingston kills and a couple of Llarenas blocks, another solo and the second being a double with Bower, to force a Gael timeout.
Saint Mary’s came running out of its timeout with five-consecutive points to tie the match at 6-all, bringing up a BYU timeout. Llarenas ended the Gaels’ run with a slide kill, downing another, the latter off the block to put the Cougars up 8-7.
Stowell and Gneiting each landed two kills as BYU rattled off a 3-0 run and then a 6-0 run, capped off by another Montoya ace that forced Saint Mary’s second timeout as the Cougars held a commanding 17-9 lead in the set.
Leading 22-13 after a slide kill and block from Gneiting, a Bower dump kill and quick hitter from Llarenas, BYU finished things off on a 3-0 run with two Grimmer kills in the middle and a McComber ace to secure the 25-14 set and match win.
The Cougars will remain in northern California to visit Pacific on Saturday, Oct. 15 at noon PDT. The match will be streamed on the WCC Network.
Former BYU women’s volleyball All-American Amy Boswell Usevitch will be inducted into the WCC Hall of Honor on Saturday…