BYU volleyball downs Portland and Gonzaga to claim outright WCC championship

Jennifer Hamson and Tia Welling celebrate after a point in a match earlier this year. (The Universe)
Jennifer Hamson and Tia Welling celebrate after a point in a match earlier this year. (The Universe)

No.12 BYU swept past Portland Thursday night (25-14, 25-19, 25-21) and rallied back to defeat Gonzaga Saturday afternoon in a thrilling five-set match (21-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-10). The Cougars improved their record to 24-4 and 15-2 in conference play.

After Gonzaga took the first two sets in convincing fashion, BYU had to dig deep to win the match. The third set started off with the Cougars and Bulldogs trading points, with neither gaining a sustainable lead. With the score tied at 14-14, BYU went on a 4-0 run, capped off with a kill by Amy Boswell. The four-point lead was all BYU needed to close out the set with a 25-18 victory and force a fourth set.

Gonzaga bounced out to an early lead in the fourth set by going up as many as five points at 8-3. BYU responded by inching its way back into the set and tying it up at 10-10, forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout. BYU kept the pressure on Gonzaga and went on a 6-2 run after the timeout, led by Alexa Gray, who had three kills during the run. The four-point lead was once again enough, as the Cougars were able to close out the set with a 25-21 victory, forcing a fifth and deciding set.

The fifth set started out with the two teams trading points, bringing the score to 10-10. BYU responded well under the pressure and went on an astounding 5-0 run, led by two key kills from Tambre Nobles. The 5-0 run closed out the set for the Cougars and gave them the match after being down two sets to none.

“First off, hats off to Gonzaga,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “They gave us all we could handle. Second, I can’t say enough about the BYU fans that showed up. Thank you, Cougar Nation. Our girls dug deep for that one and hopefully came out with a resolve to continue improving and competing.”

Gray led the Cougars with 16 kills and four blocks. Nobles had an impressive match for BYU with 14 kills, six digs and a .375 hitting percentage. Boswell tied her career high with 11 kills, and Whitney Young led the blocking efforts for BYU with 10. Camry Godfrey Willardson had 39 assists and six blocks.

BYU defeated the Portland Pilots easily last Thursday night in Portland. The Cougars dominated the Pilots from start to finish as Gray led the way for the Cougars with 14 kills and Jennifer Hamson added 11 kills herself.

BYU continues its road trip as the team travels to Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. (MST). The matchup against the Lions will be the Cougars’ last regular season match.

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