Bower’s career night leads No. 12 BYU to five-set win at Pepperdine
MALIBU, Calif. – Sophomore setter Whitney Bower’s career highs of 26 digs and eight kills helped No. 12 BYU women’s volleyball hand Pepperdine its first loss in a five-set thriller (24-26, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13) at the Firestone Fieldhouse on Wednesday.
Bower filled the final box score with a stat line of 46 assists, 26 digs, eight kills on a .727 clip, four blocks and three aces. She is the first BYU player in the rally era (2001-present) to record at least four kills, 10 assists, 16 digs, two aces and three blocks in a single match.
Freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston led the Cougars with a career-high 16 kills. Sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer and senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon both reached double-digit kills with 14 and 12, respectively. Ballard-Nixon matched her career high of 13 digs for her second double-double of the season.
Freshman libero Madi Allen earned her second collegiate double-double with a career-high 25 digs and 10 assists. Sophomore defensive specialist Grace Wee also set a career high in digs with 15. Senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and freshman outside hitter Leilani Dodson led the team with seven blocks apiece, marking a new career high for Dodson.
BYU (8-1, 7-1 WCC) finished the match with 94 total digs, the most in a single match since 2016. Both the Cougars and Pepperdine (7-1, 7-1 WCC) finished the night with 14 blocks, the most blocks by either team this season.
Two kills and an ace by Ballard-Nixon helped the Cougars to an 11-6 lead to open the first game. With Pepperdine surging, Livingston tallied three kills to keep BYU up 19-18. The two teams battled back and forth with a kill by Bower tying the match at 24-all before two-straight kills by the Waves ended the set, 26-24.
Back-to-back blocks by Dodson and Grimmer gave the Cougars a 4-1 edge to begin the second set. Three kills by Livingston and two kills by Eschenberg helped BYU maintain a three-point advantage, 11-8. Pepperdine came back to take a 22-21 lead late in the set. Dodson connected on two kills to fuel a 4-1 Cougar run to win the set 25-23.
The Waves jumped out to a 7-2 lead to start the third game and remained in control for the entire set. Dodson dropped two kills and an ace in an 8-2 run that brought the score within two points, 18-16. Pepperdine countered with a 7-3 run to close out the set, 25-19.
Three kills by Livingston and an ace by Bower gave BYU a seven-point advantage in the fourth game, 12-5. The Waves rallied back to close the deficit to two points, 18-16. Grimmer connected on two kills to set up match point and a dump kill by Bower forced a fifth set, 25-21.
Ballard-Nixon dropped an ace and Livingston added two kills to give the Cougars an 8-7 edge in the final set. Grimmer connected on a pair of kills and Bower won a joust at the net to maintain a one-point lead, 12-11. A kill by Livingston and a solo block by Eschenberg secured the comeback win, 15-13.
BYU women’s volleyball will remain on the road for a two-match series against San Francisco March 5-6 in War Memorial Gym. Both matches are scheduled to start at noon PST. Broadcast information will be released in the coming week.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.