BYU fell to San Diego (18-25, 25-23, 24-26, 25-16, 9-15) in a five-set match between the top two teams of the West Coast Conference on Friday, Nov. 15. Before the game, the teams were tied, the Cougars at a 22-3 overall record and 13-1 in the WCC with the Toreros sitting a at 20-5 overall record and 13-1 in the WCC. San Diego now sits comfortably atop the WCC with the win and has a strong chance of capturing the WCC title.
The teams swapped points until BYU pulled ahead with a kill from Taylen Ballard-Nixon and three from Heather Gneiting (6-3). The Cougars continued their lead with an ace from Tayler Tausinga and a block from McKenna Miller (8-4). Whitney Bower and Miller both served their 36th aces of the season shortly after Bower’s first kill of the match (14-7). After a kill from Kennedy Eschenberg, San Diego earned four unanswered points which caused BYU to call a timeout (17-12).
Immediately after the timeout, the Cougars gained three consecutive points, with kills from Gneiting and Bower, which Miller and Madelyn Robinson followed with kills of their own (23-16). The Cougars remained ahead and won the first set (25-18). Bower finished the first set with four digs, eight assists, two kills and an ace.
San Diego earned the first point of the second set, but BYU answered with four in a row before the Toreros gained another (4-2). The teams swapped points until San Diego pulled ahead by two (12-10). Gneiting added two kills, and Miller added one as did Bower which tied the score (15-15. However, San Diego quickly pulled back ahead (18-16).
The Cougars caught up with a kill from Miller, but the Toreros quickly regained their lead for the third time in the set (21-18). Back-to-back kills from Gneiting brought BYU one point behind the Toreros (22-21). San Diego called a timeout, which BYU followed with a block from Bower, putting them in the lead (23-22). After another San Diego timeout, the Toreros earned three points in a row and won the second set (25-23).
BYU pulled ahead early in the third set (8-3). Eschenberg, Miller and Gneiting each contributed kills to give BYU a five-point lead (10-5). San Diego brought the score closer but remained behind (18-17). Bower, Eschenberg and Miller each had a kill which put more space between the two teams (20-17).
A kill from Robinson and BYU’s fifth ace of the match prepared BYU for the set point (24-21). San Diego gained two points in a row, which caused the Cougars to call a timeout before the Toreros tied up the score (24-24). Gneiting’s 10th kill of the match prepared BYU for the set point. An attack error from San Diego gave the Cougars the third set (26-24).
BYU struggled during the fourth set. The score was tied early, but San Diego earned points quickly until the team had a 10-point lead (20-10). BYU remained behind and the Toreros won the fourth set (25-16).
San Diego gained an early lead in the fifth set (5-2). Eschenberg and Ballard-Nixon each had a kill, but the Cougars remained two points behind (6-4). BYU called a timeout after an attack error by Gneiting put San Diego four points ahead (8-4).
The Cougars needed a second timeout when San Diego continued to grow its lead (12-5). BYU started to come back after a kill from Gneiting, an ace from Kiani Moea’i and a block from Miller, but it wasn’t enough (12-8). San Diego won the match-point after a BYU service error (15-9).
Gneiting finished the match with 11 kills while Miller and Eschenberg had nine kills each. Bower finished with six kills while adding 34 assists and 11 digs. Mary Lake ended with 19 digs and four assists. As a team, the Cougars had six aces and 13 blocks for the evening.
The BYU women’s volleyball team is now scheduled to face Portland in the Smith Fieldhouse on Nov. 21.