No. 1 women’s volleyball sweeps rival Utah

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No. 1 BYU celebrates after scoring a point against rival No. 24 Utah on Thursday, Sept. 13, in the Smith Fieldhouse. (Abigail Keenan)

The BYU women’s volleyball team looked every bit deserving of its newly acquired No. 1 ranking as it swept rival No. 24 Utah 25-20, 25-14, 25-17 on Sept. 13 in the Smith Fieldhouse.

The Cougars, playing as the No. 1 team for the first time since 1986 and in front of a record crowd of 5,472, improved to 9-0 on the season and 72-30 all-time against the Utes.

BYU Coach Heather Olmstead talked about the impact the fans had on the game and the excitement surrounding the team this season.

“I just want to thank the community and the students and everyone for coming out to the match,” Olmstead said. “We’ve made a couple more fans and people keep coming back. It was pretty cool to set a record for attendance, and we’re really proud of the product we’re putting out on the floor. We just want to keep getting better.”

The Cougars did get off to a slow start after falling behind 4-1 early in the first set. BYU managed to bring themselves within one after an attack error by Utah and kills by Roni Jones-Perry and Kennedy Eschenberg. The score remained close for most of the remainder of the set and was tied at 15 before BYU went on a 10-5 run to finish the set off. 

“Our serve and pass got a lot better, and that kind of just switches the whole momentum of the game,” Jones-Perry said on what changed for the Cougars after the slow start. “It lets us run our defense a little bit better how we want to and then also run our offense.”

The second set seemed out of reach for the Utes from the start, as the Cougars jumped out to an early 11-4 lead. Back to back kills by Heather Gneiting later on in the set put BYU up 22-12. Then with another kill by Lyndie Haddock-Eppich and a series of Utah errors, the Cougars took a 2-0 match lead.

Utah came out with another quick start in the third set, building a 3-1 lead. An attack error by Utah followed by kills from Eschenberg and Madelyn Robinson, however, helped the Cougars go on a 3-0 run and take the lead. BYU later went on a 5-0 run in the set with four straight kills by Jones-Perry and Eschenberg.

Jones-Perry and Eschenberg led the team in kills with 13 and 9, respectively. Eschenberg also led the team in blocks with four, while Mary Lake led the team in digs with 12. Haddock-Eppich had the only double-double of the night for the Cougars with 10 digs and 31 assists.

“Our passing was great,” Haddock-Eppich said. “We started to get better and better each set, and so I was able to see where I could set the offense and get the best looks for the hitters.”

BYU will travel to face Weber State on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 2 p.m. in their last non-conference game of the season.

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