Bulldogs bulldoze over Cougars

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Cougar fans left the Smith Fieldhouse last night in a somber mood following the BYU women’s volleyball game. The visiting Gonzaga Bulldogs (8-19, 2-14) beat the BYU Cougars (20-9, 9-6) in a 3-1 series (28-26, 22-25, 22-25, 25-21).

“We didn’t have it from the get go,” coach Shawn Olmstead said. “We couldn’t feel it and you could see that; it was almostĀ tangible.”

Opening the match was a back and forth first set that had the crowd on their feet. Gonzaga got away with the first point, but senior outside hitter Christie Carpenter slammed one down on the Bulldogs. Both teams battled for control and momentum, however, neither could successfully secure a comfortable lead.

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Nicole Warner, 15, goes for the kill against Gonzaga's Kaprina Goodwin, 17, on Thursday night's game in the Smith Field House.
There were seven lead changes in the first set alone leading up to an incredible finish. BYU was down 18-14 until Carpenter and senior outside hitter Casey Thurston took over the game with three combined kills in a row. Gonzaga pulled ahead with a 23-22 lead until junior middle blocker Nicole Warner came in for a kill followed by a team block by sophomore opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson and sophomore middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant. The Cougars and Bulldogs tied at 25 all, but Thurston had a clutch kill and Carpenter finished the set off with another successful attack at the net, ending the game 27-25.

The pace of the match did not change much going into the second set. Neither team ever lead by more than two points, and smart defense on both sides of the net made for long rallies. Nearing the end of the set, the Cougars tied it up at 20-20 putting them in the same winning position as the first set. Unfortunately, a play at the net left LeCheminant injured and sucked some of the fighting spirit out of the Cougars letting Gonzaga run away with the second set.

“I told the girls all week that [Gonzaga] is not a one-loss team,” Olmstead said. “It shows the strength of our conference.”

During the break, the team granted the wish of a 17-year-old volleyball player from Alta High School who had been diagnosed with cancer. She was recognized, given a signed volleyball and will have the chance to attend the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Coming out of the break, the Cougars looked to overcome their third set dry spell. The start of the match looked promising for BYU as they worked for every point. Firing up the Cougars was sophomore middle blocker Kimberli Boswell, who went three-for-four at the net and had two blocks. BYU struggled with their serve receive, but junior setter Heather Hannemann kept the Cougar offense alive. It came down to the end of the set once again, and Gonzaga ended up pulling ahead to take set three.

“We’re bummed,” Boswell said, “and it is hard to see the positive after a game like that.”

By the fourth set, the Bulldogs had gained confidence that propelled them to a victory. Gonzaga led the whole set and capitalized on the Cougars’ errors. It is the second time Gonzaga has won in conference play this season.

Kendalyn Hartsock stepped up for BYU and had 22 digs on the night. Hannemann had 45 assists, and Thurston led the Cougars in kills with 13 followed by Carpenter with 12.

BYU wraps up their season on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse against the Portland Pilots.

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