No.13 BYU women’s volleyball is preparing for the Shocker Volleyball classic after three straight wins (3-0, 3-1, 3-0) against Long Island Univeristy, Sam Houston State and Weber State this weekend.
“I just predict that we keep getting better over time and that we keep working hard every day, and that good things are gonna happen,” said BYU head coach Heather Olmstead after defeating Sam Houston State. “I think our team’s starting to form and gel, and it’s exciting that we’ve been able to be home (for) a bunch of matches to start to form our team and see how we’re gonna look.”
The weekend started off strong with a three-set victory (25-14, 25-17, 25-10) against Long Island on Thursday, Sept. 5. BYU gained an early lead in the first set and continued to dominate for the rest of the evening. BYU finished the night with 11 aces and a .371 hitting percentage.
“I liked our focus tonight,” Olmstead said. “We came in with a plan and we stuck with it. We served tough and we took smart swings.”
It took the Cougars a little longer to find their stride against Sam Houston on Sept. 6. The teams swapped points for the majority of the first set until Sam Houston gained three points in a row to win the set (24-26). The second set also started out slower for BYU, but during Taylen Ballard-Nixon’s serve they pulled ahead by three (7-4).
“I thought tonight’s match was exciting,” Olmstead said after the Sam Houston win.” The first set was a lot of scrappy defense. Offensively we weren’t our best, but I thought we needed to stick in everything that we had, so we had to make adjustments after that first set.”
BYU continued to gain momentum until they lead 20-10. They captured set two with a commanding 25-13 score and appeared to be more comfortable on the court. They had a team laugh when Madelyn Robinson accidentally caught the ball instead of hitting it.
“I’ve never seen Maddy catch a ball before,” said Mckenna Miller, who laughed as she recalled her favorite moment of the evening.
The Cougars won sets three and four, 25-16, 25-18, respectively, to win the match. They finished the night with a .472 kill percentage and eight aces. Tayler Tausinga and Whitney Bower had three aces each — with Bower having three aces two nights in a row.
“I thought we were pretty aggressive the whole match,” Olmstead said. “I like the way we settled down after that first set.”
BYU was energized Saturday night, winning against Weber in three sets. Miller had three kills and an ace in the first six serves, which set the evening’s tone.
“I was really excited. In-state games are normally really competitive, so I was excited to go out and do what we know how to do,” Miller said.
The Cougars remained ahead for the rest of the first set. Weber challenged two calls, with BYU having a team dance party while they waited. They started the second set forcefully with an ace from Bower and three kills, before winning the second set 25-16.
“I’m really proud of how we started. We just started strong, and I really liked our serving and just our forward focus and I thought we did a really good job of just focusing on our side and playing our game,” Heather Gneiting said.
BYU had to fight harder for its third and deciding set. The Cougars started strong and led 20-10, but Weber began to close the gap and the score reached 22-21 before BYU pulled ahead and captured the straight-set victory.
“I’m really happy with the way we played. I mean three matches in three days isn’t easy, so I’m happy that we came out tonight focused against the Weber State team,” Olmstead said.
Miller, Robinson and Gneiting each received awards at the end of the invitational. Miller was awarded MVP.
“It’s a team award. I obviously would not be getting it without everybody on our team, but it feels nice being back and being able to compete,” Miller said. “It affirms to myself that I was playing how I was before I got hurt, and just kind of makes me feel more confident in myself but also in our team because that was a really big win.”