No. 1 women’s volleyball improves to 27-0, clinches WCC title

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The No. 1 undefeated BYU women’s volleyball team celebrates after beating Saint Mary’s on Thursday, Nov. 15 to clinch their fifth straight WCC championship. (BYU Photo)

The No. 1 BYU women’s volleyball team remained undefeated on the season with road wins over Saint Mary’s (25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 25-16) on Thursday, Nov. 15, and Pacific (25-17, 25-19, 25-17) on Saturday, Nov. 17.

With its win over Saint Mary’s the Cougars improved to 27-0 and clinched their fifth straight West Coast Conference championship.

“I’m so proud of the team and the way they fought,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. “Roni (Jones-Perry) was really special tonight and took some big time swings. Winning the WCC championship is a moment they will have with them the rest of their life. They deserve it.”

Jones-Perry had a double-double against the Gaels, recording 11 digs and 31 kills on a 0.318 hitting percentage. The 31 kills are the 11th most in BYU women’s volleyball program history.

Setter Lyndie Haddock-Eppich had an all around solid performance for the Cougars, piling up 43 assists, 16 digs, six blocks and six kills. Middle blocker Heather Gneiting had 11 blocks and four kills for BYU, while libero Mary Lake added 16 digs.

The Cougars had to earn the win in the first two sets against St. Mary’s, with both ending in a 25-23 BYU advantage. BYU came back from a 17-22 deficit late in the second set, highlighted by a series of Gneiting and Haddock-Eppich blocks.

With the game tied at 22 in the third set, both teams traded points until it was once again tied at 24. However, a Lindsey Calvin kill for Saint Mary’s and a Lindsey Knudsen block gave the Gaels the set win, 26-24. The set loss was just the seventh time the Cougars had dropped a set this season and only the third time in conference play.

BYU went on to win the fourth set in timely fashion, much like they have done all season. After going up 13-5 early the Cougars never looked back, and won the set 25-16 to win the match and clinch the WCC title.

The Cougars were led once again in their game against Pacific by Jones-Perry, who tallied a team-high 16 kills on a 0.519 hitting percentage. Haddock-Eppich added 35 assists for BYU, along with six digs, four blocks and three kills. Gneiting had six blocks and six kills, while Mary Lake added nine digs for BYU.

BYU’s Kennedy Eschenberg (24) and Roni Jones-Perry (12) go up for a block in a game against Pacific on Saturday, Nov. 17. (BYU Photo)

“Everyone was ready to play today, and we had great energy,” Olmstead said. “I’m proud of the team’s ability to stay focused this weekend.”

With the Cougars up 21-13 late in the first set over Pacific, a series of kills by Gneiting, Haddock-Eppich and Kennedy Eschenberg, and a Tigers attack, error pushed BYU over the edge to give them the 25-17 set win.

After finding themselves up 21-14 in the second set, the Cougars finished it off with a kill by Danelle Stetler and three straight kills by Jones-Perry to take the 2-0 match lead.

After being up 22-14 in the third set, Pacific came back to cut the lead down to five. However, a Tiger service error followed by an attack error gave the Cougars the 24-17 lead, and a Haddock-Eppich kill sealed the deal for BYU.

The undefeated Cougars now travel to take on Loyola Marymount on Tuesday, Nov. 20 in its final game of the regular season.

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