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Big Blocking Night Keys No. 12 BYU to Win
LOS ANGELES – The No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball team went into LMU and came out with a big win on Thursday, defeating the Lions 3-1 (25-22, 25-12, 15-25, 25-22).
The Cougars (17-3, 8-1 WCC) got a big night up front to secure the season sweep of the Lions (12-9, 6-3). BYU had a season-high 18 team blocks in the match, the most since totaling 18 against San Diego on October 30, 2015. Junior Taylen Ballard-Nixon had a career-high 11 blocks with junior Kennedy Eschenberg adding nine. Senior Mary Lake joined freshmen Whitney Bower, Grace Wee and Morgan Bower in an effective defensive backline as well.
Senior McKenna Miller had 16 kills and an ace to pace the Cougar offense while sophomore Madelyn Robinson also had double-digit kills with 10.
Miller had five kills to pace BYU in a set that was in doubt until the very end. Tied at 22-22, BYU secured the final three points on a block by Gneiting and Ballard-Nixon, a bad set by LMU and another block by Gneiting and Robinson to give the Cougars the 25-22 win.
The Cougar frontline came up big, registering five blocks in the set as BYU cruised to a much smoother 25-12 win in set two. Three early blocks disrupted the Lion offense and helped BYU jump out to an 8-2 lead. Two kills by Robinson jumpstarted a 6-0 run to end the set, punctuated by Ballard-Nixon’s solo block for the Cougars’ 25th point.
Effective serving early by LMU gave the Lions an 11-6 lead after a 5-0 run that included two aces. Kills by Miller and Heather Gneiting put BYU within three at 12-9, but LMU answered with a run to go back up 19-9. The Lions closed out the set, winning 25-15.
BYU saw a 12-10 lead turn into a 16-13 deficit in set four. A kill by Robinson and a block by Gneiting and Bower cut the lead to one 16-15 before an LMU service error and a kill by Miller gave BYU an 18-17 lead. The Lions subsequently took advantage of a BYU service error and two aces to retake the lead at 22-20. But a kill by Eschenberg began a 5-0 run to close out the set and the match in BYU’s favor behind Miller’s serve. Robinson added a kill, then back-to-back blocks by Eschenberg and Ballard-Nixon set up match point where Eschenberg added a second kill to give BYU the victory.
The Cougars will travel to play Pepperdine on Saturday, Oct. 26, at noon PT.
Cougars on the road at LMU, Pepperdine
PROVO, Utah - The No. 12 BYU women's volleyball team begins the second half of the Cougars' West Coast Conference slate with a key road trip to LMU and Pepperdine this week.
BYU (16-3, 7-1) will take on the Lions (12-8, 6-2) on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. PT before facing the Waves (10-9, 6-2) on Saturday, Oct. 26, at noon PT. Both matches will be shown on the WCC Network.
The Cougars and LMU have played once already this season with BYU coming away with a five-set victory in Provo. BYU had four players with double-digit kills and hit .303 with freshman Whitney Bower finishing with 44 assists, 10 digs, five kills and four aces. Every set was close until BYU pulled away to win set five, 15-7.
This will be the first matchup of the season between BYU and Pepperdine. The Cougars have won their last 14 matches against the Waves, having not lost to Pepperdine in eight years. Last season, BYU swept both matches.
Senior McKenna Miller continues to lead the Cougars with 238 kills on a .271 average while also placing second on the team with 27 aces. Bower is averaging 9.76 assists and 2.59 digs per set with 33 aces on the year, while senior Mary Lake is averaging 3.54 digs per set.
The Cougar middles' offensive and defensive numbers are currently almost identical, with junior Kennedy Eschenberg at 135 kills and 79 blocks and sophomore Heather Gneiting at 134 kills and 84 blocks so far.