Smith Fieldhouse Provo UT 84606
No. 13 Cougars Sweep Portland Behind Balanced Team Effort
PROVO, Utah — No. 13 BYU women’s volleyball swept Portland (25-15, 25-14, 25-17) thanks to an all-around strong effort at the Smith Fieldhouse in a conference matchup on Thursday.
The Cougars held the Pilots to a .071 hitting percentage and out-blocked them 10-1. BYU also held the advantage in kills 43-17 and only committed four attack errors to Portland's 20. The Cougars' four attack errors tied for the third-fewest all-time in program history. Junior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the way for the Cougars, posting 11 kills on a .321 hitting percentage to go with three blocks, two solo. McKenna Miller also contributed nine kills, three blocks, three digs and an ace.
"Whitney (Bower) did a great job distributing the offense and getting a lot of hitter involved," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "We took smart swings and our serving put us in good spots to block well."
Both teams struggled to gain an advantage in the early going as both teams were tied at 10 points apiece. BYU took its first lead of the night and proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to make the score 17-10. Five kills from Ballard-Nixon provided the Cougars a spark offensively. BYU’s defense was excellent as well, as it held Portland’s attack to a .083 hitting percentage, winning the set 25-15.
BYU and Portland battled at the beginning of the second set before the Cougars went on a 10-1 run to go up 17-6. BYU’s offense featured a balanced attack as six different players recorded at least one kill in the set. Three aces from BYU helped to set the tone as well. The Cougars ended the set with a stellar .583 hitting percentage, the second-highest percentage in a set this season, as they took the contest, 25-14.
BYU got out to a quick lead, going up 4-0 behind two kills from Heather Gneiting. The Cougars' offense went into a groove, taking a 14-7 lead. Miller provided two key blocks at the end of the set to put the Pilots away, 25-17.
The Cougars return to action on Saturday, Nov. 23, at home against conference foe Gonzaga at 1 p.m. MST. The match will be broadcast on BYUtv.
Portland and Gonzaga to Visit Provo
PROVO, Utah – No. 13 BYU women's volleyball will host Gonzaga and Portland this week in two West Coast Conference matchups.
The Cougars and Bulldogs will play Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. MT on the WCC Network. BYU will then take on the Pilots on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. MT on BYUtv.
The Cougars swept Portland (25-20, 25-21, 25-18) and Gonzaga (25-13, 25-13, 25-17) on the road in September. BYU is 16-1 all-time against Portland, including 8-0 at home and 9-0 under Olmstead. BYU has swept the Pilots six-straight times since losing its only match in the series in 2016. The Cougars are 20-1 against Gonzaga, including 9-1 at home and 9-0 under Olmstead with sweeps the last five matches of the series.
BYU comes into the match ranked 13th nationally at 22-4 overall, with the four losses all coming against ranked teams: No. 1 Texas, No. 9 Marquette and No. 20 San Diego. The Cougars also have wins over No. 4 Stanford and No. 16 Utah this year.
The Cougars are led by senior McKenna Miller's 332 kills and 37 aces on the year; her ace total is currently seventh in rally era program history. Freshman setter Whitney Bower has 36 aces with 898 assists and 231 digs while hitting .391 on the season.
In the middle, sophomore Heather Gneiting and junior Kennedy Eschenberg both provide offense and defense for BYU. Gneiting has 191 kills and 120 blocks with 16 aces while Eschenberg is hitting .343 with 166 kills and 113 blocks on the year. On the backline, senior Mary Lake leads the team with 340 digs to go with 20 aces.
After this week, BYU will have a final regular season match on Tuesday, Nov. 26, against Pepperdine at 8 p.m. MT on ESPNU. Following the Thanksgiving holiday, the Cougars will then find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday, Dec. 1, during the tournament selection show, hoping to play in the postseason for the eighth-straight time.