Freshmen key part of BYU volleyball’s success

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Freshman McKenna Miller spikes the ball earlier this season. Miller has 189 kills on the season. (Ari Davis)

Young talent is proving to be an important component of No. 9 BYU women’s volleyball.

The team owns an 11-1 record and has swept five of its last six opponents. The Cougars have a total of seven new freshmen on this year’s roster, and two of those seven have already been recognized as stand-out players for BYU.

Mary Lake is a 5’7” libero from Palm Springs, California. She is returning from an injury that ended her senior season in high school, but she was awarded numerous titles as a junior in high school. McKenna Miller is a 6’1” outside hitter from Murrieta, California. While in high school she was named the best offensive player of the 2014-15 season.

Lake and Miller play opposite positions but are both vital to this year’s volleyball team. Lake controls the back row as the defensive specialist, while Miller puts balls away as an attacker on the front row.

So far in the season, Lake has had a total of 188 digs. Miller has contributed a total of 189 kills on an average of a .308 clip and tallied 12 kills in her last game.

In one of the closest games of the season thus far, both of these freshmen were a crucial part of the Cougars’ comeback. The team found themselves down two sets to No. 11 Ohio State on September 3, but with the assistance of impeccable defense from Lake and powerful offense from Miller, the Cougars were able to turn the game around and beat the Buckeyes in five sets.

Lake had a total of 38 digs, which was the match high as well as her career high for kills. Miller also accomplished a match high and career high 31 kills.

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Freshman libero Mary Lake passes the ball earlier this season. Lake has been an impact player for the 11-1 women’s volleyball team. (Ari Davis)

“It’s good and bad because the bar is set really high early. But I wasn’t focused on the number, I was just playing, and it just happened,” Miller said. “I want to keep contributing how the team needs me to play. Whatever I end up doing — if it’s on the bench or on the court — I want to get better as a player and help the team grow.”

Lake was recently named West Coast Conference Player of the Week and ESPNW Player of the Week after her performance in the Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic where she recorded the 38 digs. Lake was also named most valuable player of the invitational and added to the all-tournament team.

“She controlled the back court,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “She calmed down the passers and passed really well.”

When asked if she felt any added pressure from being named player of the week so early in her career, Lake said it makes her want to get better.

“It’s nothing really different. Every day in practice it feels the same and our focus is to get better, and that takes the pressure off of it,” Lake said. “You just think about it one day at a time.”

Lake also said each player is encouraged to be a leader, which makes it easy for her and Miller to step up and fulfill their roles as part of the team.

The Cougars begin conference play at home against Santa Clara on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 24, at 1 p.m. when they host San Francisco.

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