The No. 21 BYU women’s volleyball team pulled out a win against Pepperdine in an exhausting five-set match (15-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-16, 15-8) on Nov. 2 in the Smith Fieldhouse. This was the second time the Cougars (19-4, 12-1 WCC) have beat the Waves this season, first beating them in a four-set match in California.
“For some reason we came out flat,” said head coach Shawn Olmstead. “They came out ready to play, they put a lot of pressure on us. Hats off to the kids for fighting. To win the third set 25-23 that was it, that was the change right there.”
The first set both teams started out strong, trading points until Pepperdine gained the first lead at 7-9 and then a more significant lead at 8-12. Pepperdine held BYU under 10 and doubled its score at 9-18, forcing the Cougars to call their second timeout of the set. BYU earned a few more points but could not stop the threat of Pepperdine’s hot offense, and the Cougars fell in the first set 15-25.
The second set started off with a perfect pass, set then kill by Alexa Gray on the outside. The score remained close through the beginning of the set until the Waves pulled ahead, gaining a 5-9 lead on BYU.
A series of outside kills by Tambre Haddock and Gray and solid defensive blocks helped the Cougars gain some momentum. However, the Waves would not let up defensively, blocking everything the Cougars gave them. Pepperdine took the second set 17-25.
The Cougars came out with fire in the third set and scored a quick three points. The Waves countered back and tied the score at 3-3 after a few BYU errors and a kill of their own. The Cougars played scrappy on defense and managed to hang with the Waves for the first time in the match.
Haddock made a smart offensive play and dropped a roll shot directly in the middle of Pepperdine’s court, giving BYU a 15-14 edge. Gray gained a two-point lead for the Cougars 20-18 after an outside kill and a strategically placed tip in the center of the Waves’ court. BYU won a long, nail-biting rally by a Gray block to tie the score 23-23 and carried the momentum to win the third set 25-23.
“We came out with a lot more heart in the second half,” said libero Ciara Parker. “Those long rallies are so crucial; if we can win those we can tire them out and make them think about what they’re doing.”
The fourth set started off in a similar manner with both squads battling for each point until BYU gained a 8-5 lead on Pepperdine, sending them into a timeout. Defensive specialist Tia Withers Welling made several great defensive digs, continuously throwing her body on the ground to save the play.
Kills by middle blocker Kathryn LeCheminant, Gray and Haddock pushed the Cougars to their biggest lead of the match at 17-13. Not ready to give up, the Waves stormed back, coming within one point of BYU at 17-16. A service ace and a series of aggressive blocks gave BYU the fourth set 25-16, sending the teams into a tie-breaking fifth set.
Carrying the momentum from two straight set wins, BYU gained a quick 5-2 lead in the fifth set. The Cougars stayed after it, and a couple of kills from Jessica Jardine secured BYU’s lead 10-4. Gray led the Cougars to victory, beating Pepperdine to the ground 15-8.
“We can’t take any team lightly,” Haddock said. “We have to learn how to work together and work out of those situations.”
BYU heads to California next week to face San Francisco and Santa Clara on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9.