For the third time this season, the BYU women’s volleyball team will square off against the Saint Mary’s Gaels, currently ranked fifth in the West Coast Conference.
In their first meeting, the Cougars lost in a 3-0 sweep; however, BYU returned the favor in their second meeting in conference play. The match tonight will be held on Saint Mary’s home court.
Following Saturday’s match, a 3-1 Cougar victory over San Francisco, senior outside hitter Christie Carpenter acknowledged there will be challenges in playing Saint Mary’s for the third time.
“Since we have played [Saint Mary’s] twice already, we will have to come out with all we have to win since they know how we play,” she said.
Despite its 13-12 record, Saint Mary’s has proven to be a tough competitor in the WCC. The Gaels forced five set matches against No. 21 San Diego and No. 14 Pepperdine.
“Saint Mary’s is a good team and I don’t think we can overlook them at all,” junior libero Kendalyn Hartsock said. “We have a pretty good idea of their tendencies and know what we need to do to prepare and play well against them.”
In their last two matches, the Cougars struggled to maintain consistency after the first two sets. Against LMU and San Francisco, BYU took control of the first two sets but was unable to seal the win in the third sets.
“We have talked a lot about that in practice this week,” Hartsock said. “We are trying to find out how we can come out stronger, or as strong, in the third game as we do in the first and second games. The key is to keep our momentum going through the break and into the third game.”
BYU coach Shawn Olmstead commented on the struggles the Cougars have had following the break.
“We have to figure out what the problem is and I need to watch the film and find out why this keeps happening so we can make changes,” he said.
Even though the Cougars have had difficulty in the third set, the team has won four straight matches and has continued to beat its opponents.
“We are becoming more and more confident in our ability to win matches,” Hartsock said. “We know we have the ability to play at a very high level, but it takes a lot of hard work in practice and in games to build that confidence. We are focusing on Saint Mary’s right now and what we need to do to beat them.”
The Cougars play two home matches next week against Gonzaga and Portland. They will be the final home matches of the season.