BYU women’s volleyball earns 14th sweep of the season

Senior Taylen Ballard-Nixon sends the ball past a Portland defender on Nov. 21. (Preston Crawley)

BYU women’s volleyball earned its 14th sweep of the season (25-25, 25-24, 25-17) in its match against Portland on Nov. 21.

“I thought our team came out and played really well,” junior Taylen Ballard-Nixon said. “Our plan was to be assertive, and I think we did just that, so I’m really pleased.” 

Heather Gneiting earned the first kill of the evening (2-1) before Portland gained the lead (6-3). Whitney Bower ended Portland’s streak with her first kill of the night as Kennedy Eschenberg followed with a kill and a block. However despite their efforts, BYU remained behind (8-6). A block from Kate Grimmer and Gneiting tied the score, and the two teams briefly swapped points before BYU gained seven points in a row with five kills from Ballard-Nixon (15-10). 

The Cougars continued to expand their lead with another kill from Bower which McKenna Miller and Eschenberg followed with kills of their own (22-12). An Eschenberg block followed by kills from Eschenberg and Miller won BYU the first set (25-15).

Senior libero Mary Lake patiently awaits a Portland serve on Nov. 21. (Preston Crawley)

Portland started the second set with an ace, which Grimmer and Ballard-Nixon followed with kills (2-2). Gneiting ended Portland’s attempt at a kill with a solo block as the teams continued to swap points. Miller’s kill brought the score to (5-5) and an Eschenberg kill gave BYU the lead, which was increased with a Miller ace. Three more kills courtesy of Ballard-Nixon, Grimmer and Gneiting expanded the lead (12-6). 

Grimmer and Gneiting shared a block after a timeout midway through the set, then Ballard-Nixon earned another kill which Grimmer followed with her fifth kill of the night (15-6). BYU gained a 10-point lead after another kill from Gneiting. (17-7). Riley Lyman put BYU ten points ahead, with her first kill of the match, and Miller continued the lead with another kill of her own. Gneiting followed with an ace that put BYU 11 points ahead (20-9).

Bower’s 37th ace of the season, followed by a kill from Madelyn Robinson and a Portland service error prepared BYU for the set point (24-14). The Cougars won the second set after a challenged play was overruled in their favor (25-14). 

Whitney Bower and Heather Gneiting combine for a huge block against Portland on Nov. 21. (Preston Crawley)

BYU began the third set with three kills from Gneiting and another from Ballard-Nixon (5-1). BYU’s lead continued to grow after a solo block from Ballard-Nixon, two kills from Miller and one from Grimmer (13-6). Ballard-Nixon’s 11th kill of the match put BYU seven points in the lead (16-9). Two block assists and two kills from Miller set BYU up for the match point, then a kill from Whitney Llarenas sealed the deal (25-17).

Ballard-Nixon led BYU in both kills and attacks. Grimmer finished the night with a .750 kill percentage and Gneiting followed with a .700. Mary Lake led in digs with 10 and Bower followed closely behind with nine. BYU finished with a .453 hitting percentage and 10 blocks. 

“Our passing was really good tonight which helped our setter distribute the ball, so she put me up in good spots,” Ballard-Nixon said. “My plan was just to go high and I think that’s why I had success there.”

The Cougars will face Gonzaga in their next match on Saturday, Nov. 23. 

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