By CHRISTINE JACKSON
To end its tough four-match road trip, BYU’s women’s volleyball team defeated No. 18 Arizona on Tuesday in five games. The Cougars are now 17-3 and are ranked No. 11 in the AVCA/USA Today poll.
The Cougars struggled in the second and third games, losing 13-15 and 3-15. They were down 2-10 in the second game before losing 13-15. The match was back and forth and the Cougars won the first, third and fifth games 15-12, 15-6 and 15-5.
BYU hit for .247 and Arizona hit for .158. The Cougars also outblocked Arizona 18-15. Head coach Elaine Michaelis said the Cougars were up and down all night.
“We finally took charge in the third and fourth games,” she said.
Caroline Bower stood out as the top BYU performer. She had 11 kills and 27 digs, tying her career high of 27 digs in a match. She also had two service aces.
“Caroline carried us,” Michaelis said. “She was definitely the player of the game.”
Mari Carpenter and Melissa Layton led the Cougar offense, each accumulating 13 kills. In an impressive performance, Layton also added 12 digs and nine blocks.
Sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen had 11 kills, five digs and seven blocks. Freshman Sunny Tonga continued to play well, contributing 11 kills and five blocks.
The win featured yet another great game by setter Anna-Lena Smith, who had 57 assists, eight kills and a hitting percentage of .615.
“Anna-Lena did a good job,” Michaelis said. “She had six blocks and took advantage of the court with some timely kills.”
Top Arizona players included Raelene Elam, who had 15 kills and 15 digs, and Lisa Rutledge and Dana Burkholder, who each added 14 kills. Rutledge and Burkholder also had 12 and 17 digs respectively.
The loss puts Arizona at an overall record of 12-8 and a series record with BYU of 23-10.
The Cougars totaled 3-1 on their road trip with their only loss coming to No. 15 Colorado State. Colorado has moved up to No. 12, just under BYU.
The first half of Mountain West Conference play has seen a lot of upsets and the Conference Tournament should bring some exciting competition to the Smith Field House on Nov. 24-27.