No. 15 BYU overpowers Saint Mary’s in straight sets
MORAGA, Calif. – No. 15 BYU women’s volleyball swept Saint Mary’s (25-17, 25-15, 26-24) on Friday at the University Credit Union Pavilion in Moraga, California, remaining in the hunt for this year’s West Coast Conference title.
The win over the Gaels boosted the Cougars to a .923 WCC win percentage as they trail just behind No. 20 Pepperdine (.933 WCC win pct.) in the league’s title race with three matches remaining in the regular season for both teams.
Senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon led the Cougars with a double-double of 13 kills on a .379 clip and a career-high 14 digs. Sophomore setter Whitney Bower contributed a double-double of her own with 34 assists and 10 digs while adding three blocks, two kills and an ace to her stat line.
Middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg continued her efficient offensive play while leading the team defensively. The senior totaled 11 kills on an errorless .611 hitting percentage and led the team with eight blocks for the second match in a row. Freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston also reached double-digit kills with 10.
Freshman libero Madi Allen led the team in digs with 17 while freshman outside hitter Abbey Dayton also reached double-digits with 10 digs.
Offensively, BYU (13-1, 12-1 WCC) had its way with Saint Mary’s (7-9, 7-9 WCC), finishing with 45 kills and a .304 team hitting percentage. The Cougars also proved dominant defensively, holding the Gaels to a .057 hitting percentage while outblocking them 13-4.
Eschenberg tallied two quick kills and a block to help BYU open the first game with an 8-4 advantage. Eschenberg then added two more kills and a pair of blocks as the Cougars’ increased their lead to 19-11. Ballard-Nixon connected on three kills late in the set to secure the 25-17 win for BYU. The Cougars had six blocks in the first game while holding the Gaels to a .026 hitting percentage.
Eschenberg and Livingston combined to score all six of BYU’s first points to give the Cougars an early 6-1 lead in the second set. Sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer contributed on a pair of blocks to increase the advantage to 13-5. Livingston then added three more kills to make the score 19-9. Four different Cougars connected on kills to close out the set, 25-15. BYU once again held the Saint Mary’s attack in check as the Gaels only hit .023 in the set.
In a much tighter third game, the two teams exchanged blows with neither team able to pull away from the other. Eschenberg had three kills to fuel a 6-2 run that gave the Cougars a 15-14 edge midway through the set. Two kills by Grimmer helped extend the lead to 18-15. After Saint Mary’s fought back to take a 24-23 lead late, BYU scored three-straight points with a kill by Eschenberg, an ace by Bower and a block by Eschenberg and Grimmer to take the set, 26-24.
BYU and Saint Mary’s will play the backend of the two-match series Saturday, March 27 at the University Credit Union Pavilion. The match is set to start at 3 p.m. PDT and will be broadcast on the WCC Network.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.