BYU women’s volleyball finished its regular season 25-4 after defeating Pepperdine in five sets (25-15, 25-19, 20-25, 20-25, 15-3).
“You’ve got to be able to adapt and adjust on the fly,” head coach Heather Olmstead said. “I really like that we stuck with it and weathered the storm. We just tried to keep our steady energy and focus on us and we ended up executing pretty well in that fifth set.”
The Cougars immediately gained a three-point lead, in part, thanks to two kills from Kate Grimmer (3-0). Pepperdine quickly caught up, and the teams swapped points until Taylen Ballard-Nixon scored three kills while Heather Gneiting scored one to help BYU take the lead once again (9-6). The Cougars’ lead grew with three kills from McKenna Miller (15-9).
Grimmer and Kennedy Eschenberg teamed up for a block and Miller added a kill along with BYU’s first ace of the evening (18-11). Mary Lake’s dig set Ballard-Nixon up for another kill, which the outside hitter immediately followed with another (20-12). Whitney Bower’s first kill of the match put BYU nine points ahead (22-13). BYU remained in the lead and won the first set with a 10-point lead (25-15).
Miller set the tone of the second set with two kills and a block assisted by Eschenberg and a Lake dig, all occurring before Pepperdine earned its first point (4-0). Grimmer and Ballard-Nixon added a kill each (6-1), which Ballard-Nixon followed with her eighth kill of the match after an intense rally. Miller followed with three kills (11-7). Gneiting helped BYU gain two points in a row with a block and a kill (15-9).
Five kills from Gneiting, Ballard-Nixon, Miller, Eschenberg and Grimmer, followed by blocks from Miller and Eschenberg put BYU eight points ahead (23-15). The Cougars won the set after Miller and Grimmer’s kills (25-19).
The two teams swapped points during the beginning of the third set until Pepperdine pulled ahead by two points (8-6). A kill from Ballard-Nixon helped the Cougars close in (11-11), then Pepperdine pulled ahead once again (13-11). Ballard-Nixon threw in another kill, which Miller followed with one of her own. However, BYU remained behind until the team lost the set (25-20)
Pepperdine initially took the lead at the fourth set, but BYU caught up with a kill from Miller followed by another from Eschenberg (3-3). The teams swapped points until Pepperdine gained a two-point lead (8-6). A kill from Miller and a Pepperdine service error tied the score (9-9) before Pepperdine gained a two-point lead once more (12-10). BYU caught and passed its opponent with kills from Miller, Grimmer and Eschenberg (15-13). The team’s lead was short-lived, and Pepperdine pulled ahead (18-16). Despite three kills from Miller, BYU was unable to catch Pepperdine and lost the third set (25-20).
Gneiting and Grimmer shared a block, which Grimmer followed with a kill before Gneiting and Madelyn Robinson shared another block to start the fourth set (5-1). BYU’s lead continued its lead with a kill from Gneiting and two from Robinson (8-2), before Gneiting assisted on her third block of the set, this time with Bower (9-2). Robinson helped BYU increase its lead with two kills in a row (11-2) while Kiani Moea’i earned the match-point for BYU with an ace (15-3).
For seniors Lake, Miller, Lyman and Moea’i, this was their last game during the regular season.
“I am really proud of my team and all that we’ve overcome,” Lake said. “I love those girls to death, and I know they will be great volleyball players. It was a different season, and I’m proud of how we’ve handled it all, and how we’ve grown. I loved it.”
The seniors helped their team win three WCC titles, score two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and make an NCAA Final Four appearance. The players will remain an important asset during the postseason.
The Cougars’ postseason fate will be announced in the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m.