Cougars grab season-opening sweep of Rider
PROVO, Utah — No. 10 BYU women’s volleyball opened the 2022 season with a 3-0 sweep (25-10, 25-17, 25-16) of the Rider Broncs at the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday afternoon.
“Today is a day we’ve been waiting for all off-season, so it was really fun to go out there and get a win to start the season on the right note,” BYU middle blocker Whitney Llarenas said. “We had good energy from everyone on the court and on the bench, and being back in the Fieldhouse just amplified that.”
Junior outside hitter Erin Livingston and Lllarenas lead BYU with nine and eight kills respectively as the Cougars carded 41 kills while hitting .405 in the three-set sweep. The Cougars tallied eight service aces, 35 digs and seven blocks in the season-opening victory.
“Our passes and sets were spot-on today, which made it easy for us to be assertive and put the ball away,” Llarenas said.
The senior from Bountiful hit .500 with eight kills on 12 attempts and three blocks in her sixth start as a Cougar.
Setter Whitney Bower carded 28 assists and six kills on 10 swings in her first start of the 2022 campaign. The senior from Nampa, Idaho, also recorded two service aces and six digs.
Livingston recorded the first point of the season to give the Cougars the early lead. Whitney Bower recorded back-to-back service aces before a Llarenas kill gave BYU a 5-1 lead.
After a service error, Llarenas carded her second kill of the set followed by a Kelsey Knudsen ace to extend the BYU lead to 8-4. Heather Gneiting and Whitney Bower recorded back-to-back kills to spark a 12-3 Cougar run leading to a Rider timeout with BYU leading 21-8.
Freshman outside hitter Eden Bower recorded her first kill as a Cougar to give BYU its first set point of the match, which Kate Grimmer put away to win the set 25-10.
Grimmer started set two right where she left off by blocking the Rider attack for the first BYU point. After BYU took a 4-1 lead, the Broncs scored four of the next six to climb within one. The Cougars took the next three points to gain a four-point cushion early in the set.
Rider again pulled within one, at 12-11, but the Cougars bounced back winning five of the next six to open up a 17-12 advantage. After a service error, Eden Bower and Gneiting recorded kills before Kate Prior checked in for the first time as a Cougar and made an immediate impact with a solo stuff block in the middle.
With the set at 22-15, Livingston recorded her seventh kill of the match before a Broncs error gave the Cougars match point. Rider fought off one match point before Grimmer put away her sixth kill of the match to give BYU a two-set advantage.
After falling behind 2-1 early in set three, Eden and Whitney Bower scored back-to-back points to tie the set before an Aria McComber service ace and a Gneiting and Livingston block vaulted the Cougars into the lead, 5-3.
After a BYU error brought the Broncs within one, BYU rattled off six-straight points to take an 11-4 lead midway through the third.
The Cougars took control of the third set as they extended the lead to 19-8 with kills from Llarenas, Grimmer and Elyse Stowell, blocks from Sophia Callahan, Llarenas and a service ace from Knudsen.
BYU will return to the court for its second game of the day as they take on the Duke Blue Devils at 7 p.m. MDT in the Smith Fieldhouse. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and the BYUtv app. Fans will need tickets for the 7 p.m. contest against the Blue Devils.
BYU women’s volleyball season tickets for the upcoming 2023 campaign will go on sale beginning Wednesday, July 26.