Balanced Attack Leads No. 12 BYU Over Gonzaga in Home Opener
PROVO, Utah — Four Cougars finished with double-digit kills as No. 12 BYU women's volleyball defeated Gonzaga 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-12, 25-17) in its home opener at the Smith Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
Senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the way for the Cougars, finishing with 17 kills and six digs. Freshman outside hitter Leilani Dodson added a career-high 13 kills, freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston finished with a career-high 12 kills and sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer landed 11 kills. Junior middle blocker Whitney Llarenas had a career high of seven kills on a .700 clip while sophomore setter Whitney Bower totaled a season-high six kills.
BYU (4-0, 3-0 WCC) hit an exceptional .423 on the night while holding Gonzaga (1-2, 1-2 WCC) to .132. Freshman libero Madi Allen recorded her first career double-double with 18 digs and a career-high 13 assists. Along with her six kills, Bower also finished with 18 digs, matching her career high, while tallying 43 assists and a pair of aces.
The Cougars opened up an early 7-2 lead, paced by three Ballard-Nixon kills. That lead quickly stretched to 15-7 as Dodson added three kills of her own and Bower dropped two dump kills. BYU doubled up on Gonzaga, 20-10, before taking the set on a net violation, 25-17.
The Cougars found themselves down early in the set before rallying to tie the score at 19-all. An overpass kill by Ballard-Nixon gave BYU the lead at 21-20. After a kill by Livingston made the score 23-22 in the Cougars favor, Gonzaga scored three-straight points to tie up the match at one-game apiece, 25-23.
The two teams battled back and forth to start the third game before a Livingston kill gave BYU an 8-5 edge. An ace by Bower gave the Cougars a five-point lead, 11-6. The Cougars would stretch that advantage to 15-9 at the media timeout midway through the set. Back-to-back kills by Dodson and a block by Llarenas and Bower put BYU ahead by nine, 20-11. The Cougars would close the set on a 6-1 run, with a Llarenas and Livingston block ending the set 25-12.
An early Bower dump kill, her fourth of the match, helped BYU begin the fourth game with a 3-1 edge. Gonzaga took a brief one-point lead before a 5-0 run by the Cougars put them back in front, 9-5. The Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 run of their own to tie it up at 10-all. The Cougars then used a 4-0 run to create a four-point cushion, 17-13. Bower recorded back-to-back dump kills to make the score 22-16. An ace by Bower set up match point and Ballard-Nixon sealed the win with a kill to secure the final set, 25-17.
BYU and Gonzaga are set to face off again tomorrow, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse. The match will be streamed on BYUtv.org and the BYUtv app.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.