Cameron Muh | Posted: 15 Sep 2022 | Updated: 24 Sep 2022

Montoya ace helps No. 15 BYU down in-state rival Utah

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Alyssa Montoya and No. 15 BYU women's volleyball celebrate after her game-winning ace to beat Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — No. 15 BYU women’s volleyball beat in-state rival Utah in four sets (25-20, 22-25, 28-26, 27-25) at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Thursday.


“This one was huge for our team,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “Everybody contributed and everybody believed. We had great fight and great grit, even when we were down every single set. We just kept chipping away and people kept doing their job. I’m really proud of the way that we stayed together throughout the entire match.”

The Cougars hit .236 on the night and recorded a season-high 76 digs, with five players tallying double-digit digs: Aria McComber (16), Kate Grimmer (13), Kelsey Knudsen (12), Whitney Bower (11) and Erin Livingston (10). BYU held Utah to .201 hitting and also benefitted from 11 service errors by the Utes. 

Livingston matched her career-high in kills with 20, good for both a team and match-high. Heather Gneiting was one off from her career-high with 14 kills, while both Eden Bower added 10 kills and Whitney Llarenas downed nine. Whitney Bower finished with 49 assists and Llarenas added three blocks.

Set 1
Livingston opened the match with a kill off the block. Another Livingston kill and a kill by Llarenas then gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead. Sophia Callahan ended a 4-0 Utah run with a kill before kills by Callahan and Eden Bower made it 8-6, Utes. Down 11-6 after a second 3-0 Utah run, BYU called a timeout. 

BYU scored two-straight out of the timeout on Callahan’s third kill of the set and a solo block by Gneiting, but the Utes took the next four points to lead 15-8, forcing the Cougars’ second timeout. Gneiting landed a slide kill after the timeout to stop the run. 

Two kills by Livingston, a pair of Utah errors and a dump kill by Whitney Bower drew BYU within two, at 16-14, and Utah called their first timeout. Benefitting from four Ute errors and a second Whitney Bower dump kill, the Cougars then took a 19-18 lead, forcing the Utes’ second timeout. 

A quick hitter by Llarenas and an overpass tip by Gneiting put BYU up 21-19. Eden Bower landed a cross-court kill, a Utah attack went wide and Whitney Bower’s third dump kill gave the Cougars set point. Another Utah error finished off the set for BYU, 25-20. 

Set 2
BYU took a 3-0 lead to kick off the second set with two Livingston kills and a Utah error. A Gneiting kill and block by Llarenas and Livingston put the Cougars up 5-1, but three separate 3-0 Utah runs had BYU down two, 10-8. Gneiting scored on a slide kill to cut into the lead, but a Utes’ ace forced a Cougar timeout at 14-10, Utah.

Gneiting slammed an overpass kill, but three-straight Utah kills made it 17-11, Utes. Livingston ended that run with a kill, and after a Utah error and an Eden Bower overpass kill, BYU was down four, 18-14, leading to a Utes’ timeout. 

Kills by Eden Bower, Gneiting and Grimmer had Utah ahead by three before a Utah error and another Eden Bower kill drew the Cougars within two, at 21-19. Gneiting put down a kill into the middle and Livingston landed kills cross-court and off the block to tie the set at 22, forcing the Utes’ second timeout. Utah took the next three points, however, to win the set, 25-22 and tie the match at one set each. 

Set 3
Two quick kills in the middle by Llarenas and an Eden Bower tip gave BYU an early 5-3 lead. A Utah service error into the net and a Grimmer kill off the block put the Cougars ahead, 7-5. BYU took a 9-7 advantage thanks to an Eden Bower kill that ricocheted out of bounds off the block and a Utah service error, but Utah fought back to tie the third set at 9-all. 

Gneiting downed a kill in the middle and served an ace before a Livingston kill and Utah error put the Cougars up 13-10. Three-consecutive points by the Utes tied the set at 14 before a Utah error brought about the media timeout with BYU leading 15-14. Following a service error by the Utes, the set was tied at 17-apiece.

BYU won a marathon point off a Utah error and took a 19-18 lead after another Utes’ service error into the net, but back-to-back Utah points put the Utes in front, 20-19. Tied three times in a row after a Utah error and kills by Llarenas and Grimmer, a Cougar serve that went long gave Utah a 23-22 advantage and BYU called a timeout.

A Cougar error gave the Utes set point, but Gneiting slammed two-consecutive quick kills in the middle to tie the set once more, at 24-24. Kate Prior, making her first appearance of the night, teamed up with Gneiting to stuff the Utah attack, giving BYU set point and forcing a second Utah timeout in as many plays. 

The Utes got a kill, tying the set at 25-25, but the two teams traded serves that went long to neutralize the set at 26. Kills by Gneiting and Llarenas closed out the extended set, 28-26, giving the Cougars a 2-1 match lead.

Set 4
Utah took a 3-0 lead to begin the fourth before Livingston landed her 12th kill of the night. An Aria McComber kill and tip kill by Livingston were sandwiched by a Utah error, making it 5-4, Utes. Livingston put down another kill and followed it up with an ace off the tape, tying the set at 6-6. 

Alternating side outs, the two teams traded points until 14-14, with a trio of Livingston kills and Whitney Bower winning a joust at the net highlighting the rally. Utah then scored off a block to take a 15-4 lead heading into the media timeout. 

An Eden Bower kill off the block tied the set, but three-straight points by the Utes ended the side out trade and forced a Cougar timeout at 18-15, Utah. Gneiting got two quick kills before Livingston slammed a cross-court kill and a kill off the block, tying it up at 20-apiece and causing a Utes’ timeout. 

Livingston and Llarenas combined for a block before a Livingston kill ricocheted off the Utah block past the BYU end-line and a Utah attack went wide, putting the Cougars ahead 23-21 and forcing the Utes’ second timeout. Two-straight kills by Utah again tie the set, this time at 23-23, and BYU called its second timeout.

Grimmer and Llarenas put down a block to give the Cougars match point, but the Utes’ match the block and it was tied at 24. A Utah error brought up BYU’s second match point, which Utah turned back with a kill off the block. A Gneiting quick kill gave the Cougars their third match point, making way for Alyssa Montoya to come on and serve an ace, capping off the four-set victory for BYU, 27-25. 

Continuing the week of in-state matchups, the Cougars look to go 3-0 against the Utah teams on their regular season schedule as they host Utah Valley at the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. MDT. The game can be streamed on the BYUtv app.

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