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Cougars Return To Winning Ways
USAFA -- The BYU women’s volleyball team returned to its winning ways on Wednesday night, sweeping the Air Force Falcons (25-17, 25-23, 25-10) at the Academy. The Cougars held the Falcons to a .000 hitting percentage on the night while improving to 10-8 overall on the year.
“We finished really well,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “I thought our defense did an excellent job of following the scouting report so we were really able to shut down some people. Our offense was up and down a little bit, but our defense was solid all night.”
Junior Kayla Walker led the way for BYU with 10 kills, the 11th time this year she has posted double-digit winners. Fellow junior Ashton Hansen Hosford was right behind with nine kill on .429 hitting. Walker also paced the Cougars with six blocks while Hosford added five. Sophomore libero Melissa Lake tied her career high with 18 digs.
Air Force jumped out first in set one, scoring the first three points, but the Cougars quickly fought back to take an 11-5 lead on eight straight scores. Hosford led the early charge for BYU with three kills in the first eight Cougar points. From there, the Cougars made quick work of the Falcons, taking the set 25-17. BYU posted four team blocks in the first frame, including three from Walker, while holding AFA to a .037 hitting percentage.
Set two was a battle from the start as the two teams traded points to a 4-4 tie. Air Force managed to pull ahead at 7-4 with back-to-back kills and a Cougar hitting error until Hosford and Walker combined for a block to get the sideout. The rejection sparked a 4-0 spurt that gave BYU a brief lead at 8-7, but moments later, the Falcons were back on top at 12-9. Down 14-10, the Cougars scored seven of the next eight points capped by a block from Hosford and Walker to go up 17-15. However, not to be outdone, AFA stormed back with five straight points to take a 20-17 lead late in the set and force a Cougar timeout. Redshirt freshman Casey Speredon scored for BYU out of the break, and five points later the Cougars were in front 23-20. The Falcons cut the lead to one point, but BYU finally put the set away at 25-23.
Speredon picked up where she left off in the third set, recording the first Cougar point of the frame. The momentum continued for BYU to a 4-0 early advantage until AFA finally got on the board and knotted the score. The Cougars pulled back in front on four straight Falcon errors and never looked back with a 9-1 run to go up 13-5. BYU scored 10 of the last 11 points to seal the match with a 25-10 win.
BYU will now face perhaps its toughest test of the season as the Cougars travel to take on No. 3 Texas on Friday in Austin, Texas. The match will begin at 6:30 p.m. CT (5:30 p.m. MT) and can be followed via GameTracker or CSTV All-Access.
Week of Opportunity Upcoming For BYU Volleyball
PROVO -- Opportunity is the word of the week for the BYU women’s volleyball team as the Cougars (9-8, 2-6 MWC) hope to bounce back from their recent struggles with two upcoming matches. BYU will first try to move up in the Mountain West Conference standings with a victory at Air Force on Wednesday before looking to make a national statement at No. 3 Texas on Friday.
“We have made some significant improvements in our systems and are playing with so much more energy and passion than we have been,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “This week is another opportunity for us to break through both in the conference and on a national level.”
BYU is coming off a three-set loss to in-state rival Utah on Friday, the Cougars’ fifth-straight loss. Senior Bryn Porter and junior Kayla Walker both posted double-digit kills in the match while junior Morgan Lloyd and sophomore Melissa Lake tallied double-digit digs. However, the Cougars could not overcome 19.5 Utah team blocks, including 16 from Lori Baird.
The Air Force Falcons are 5-16 overall and 0-8 in Mountain West Conference play so far this year after dropping nine of their last 10 matches. That stretch includes a three-set loss at BYU on Sept. 27. The Falcons have played their last four matches on the road, but four of their five wins this year have come in Clune Arena . AFA is led by senior middle blocker Jasamine Pettie at 2.40 kills per set. She is followed by sophomore Nichole Stilwell at 2.14 kps. True freshman Victoria Martinez boasts a team-best 3.01 digs per set, which also ranks eighth in the MWC. Junior Michell Harrington paces the Falcons with 0.85 blocks per set and has posted 10 solo blocks on the year. BYU swept AFA earlier this season and now owns a 21-1 overall record against the Falcons.
The Texas Longhorns are ranked No. 3 in the nation and are 14-2 on the year and 7-0 in Big 12 play with their only losses coming against fellow top-five teams Nebraska and Stanford. Texas also boasts a 22-match home win streak and swept Utah earlier this season. The Longhorns are led by junior outside hitter Destinee Hooker with 4.30 kills per set. Her 18 kills against Missouri pushed her career total to 1,056 and moved her into 15th place all-time at Texas. Three Longhorns follow Hooker averaging between two and three kps, including senior middle blocker Pauren Paolini, who paces the team with a .494 hitting percentage and 0.93 blocks per set. She recorded her 357th total block of her career against Mizzou, moving her into 13th place on Texas’ all-time total block list. Junior libero Heather Kisner leads the team with 4.39 digs per set. As a team, the Longhorns outperform their opponents in every statistical category. BYU leads the all-time series with Texas, 9-5.
Wednesday’s match against Air Force will begin at 7 p.m. while the BYU-Texas contest will get started at 6:30 p.m. CT (5:30 p.m. MT). Both matches will be available online via GameTracker and CSTV All-Access. Links to both options can be found by going to the schedule page of the BYU women’s volleyball homepage at http://www.byucougars.com/volleyball_w/