Women’s volleyball defeats San Diego in four sets

McKenna Miller goes for a block during a game against San Diego on Nov. 2, 2018. (BYU Photo)

No. 1 BYU women’s volleyball defeated conference rival San Diego in four sets (25-19, 25-15, 22-25, 25-20) on Friday, Nov. 2 at the Smith Fieldhouse.

“I liked our fight,” head coach Heather Olmstead said. “I thought we took good smart swings towards the end of that fourth set. We just wanted to win.”

The Cougars were pushed to four sets for the first time since their last matchup with San Diego, back on Oct. 5, and for only the fifth time this season.

Heather Gneiting led the Cougars with a career-high 12 blocks, three of which came consecutively in a key rally that increased BYU’s momentum towards the end of the fourth set.

“That was unreal,” Gneiting said about the rally. “We were just feeding off the energy, and that really brought a lot of momentum. I think it was a big turning point for our team just knowing that we can win this game, and we went out and did it.”

Gneiting added seven kills and a dig for the Cougars. Outside hitters Roni Jones-Perry and McKenna Miller had 18 kills each for BYU, while setter Lyndie Haddock-Eppich added 44 assists.

With the win, the Cougars improved to 13-0 in the WCC and 23-0 overall. In doing so, they took a big step towards their goal of winning the WCC championship.

“This just gives us more separation with (San Diego) who are in second place,” Olmstead said. “It just (helps with) our goal which is to win the West Coast Conference. We still have five more matches, but it’s always good to play San Diego because they’re a good team and well coached. I loved the challenge tonight.”

With the score tied at 16 in the first set, a series of attack errors by San Diego and kills by Gneiting and Miller helped BYU go on a 6-0 run. Miller finished off the set with another kill to put the Cougars up 1-0 in the match.

In the second set, BYU led 15-13 before going on another big 8-1 run led by Jones-Perry and Miller. Miller once again finished off the set with a kill, giving the Cougars a 2-0 match lead.

Roni Jones-Perry gets ready for a dig in the Cougars’ win over San Diego on Nov. 2. (BYU Photo)

The third set was back and forth until the game was tied at 20. However, a series of attack errors by the Cougars and a service ace and a kill by San Diego helped the Toreros finish the set on a 5-2 run and force a fourth set in the match.

After finding themselves down 17-13 towards the end of the fourth set, BYU used a series of key blocks by Gneiting and kills by Jones-Perry and Miller to gain some momentum and help the crowd get back into the game.

“There were a couple of plays that were big energy changes for us,” Jones-Perry said. “The crowd was getting us fired up, and we were getting ourselves fired up. Those changes in energy are huge in volleyball, so it was really big.”

BYU had three kills in a row to finish off the fourth set and the match and remain undefeated on the season.

The Cougars will play their final two home games of the season next week, taking on Santa Clara on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m., and San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m.

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