Starting strong: 4-seed BYU sweeps in-state foe Weber State in first round of NCAA Tournament
No. 4 seed BYU women’s volleyball opened their NCAA Tournament run with an electric series against in state foe Weber State that ended in a 3-0 sweep for the Cougars.
Though BYU was heavily favored going into the match, the Wildcats were not going to go down without a fight, dropping set one and two but bouncing back and putting the Cougars on the ropes for set three.
“That was a great match,” said BYU head coach Heather Olmstead, “Congrats to Weber State on a great season. I thought that was a really fun environment for our team to play in.”
With the win over Weber State, BYU advances to the second round, where they will host 5-seed Arizona State on Saturday, December 2 at 7 p.m. MST.
“We are excited,” said Olmstead, “We have been waiting for the chance to play big team after big team. We know every team in the tournament is dangerous but that means we are, too.”
The Cougars finished with a .292 clip over the Wildcat’s .122. BYU brough in 49 digs and 8 blocks while Weber State put up 36 and 7 respectively.
Outside hitter Erin Livingston brought the heat as usual, finishing with a game high 21 kills, also setting an NCAA Tournament-high after finishing with 20 against James Madison last season. The record-breaking stat came on a .341 clip.
Setter Whitney Bower added 31 assists and 11 digs, tallying her seventh double-double of the season.
“This is not our first [NCAA] tournament appearance and I think our ability to trust each other out there is huge for us,” said Bower. “I love my hitters and love setting for all of them and trust that they will get the job done if I do my part.”
Other notable contributors for the Cougars tonight were Middle Blockers Whitney McEwan Llarenas and Mia Lee, adding nine and seven kills and five and three blocks respectively.
BYU got the job done in sets one and two, winning both 25-16 and leaving no breathing room for the Wildcats late in the sets. Set three is where it began to get dicey.
Between seven tie scores and two lead changes, Weber State was not making this first round sweep easy on the Cougars.
After trading points for what felt like the whole set, the Wildcats take a 22-20 lead after successfully challenging a point given to BYU off of a Weber State attack error. The momentum was all on their side and their presence was felt, both on the court and in the stands.
Ironically, the Wildcats committed one of their five service errors right out of the challenge giving BYU a free point and the serve.
Livingston was set up by Bower for the kill but whiffed it into the net giving the Wildcats set point at 24-22.
But the Cougars weren’t out of gas just yet.
The Wildcats entered set point before the Cougars earned two more to tie the match and the teams traded points again. An errant ball by Weber State gave the Cougars match point 26-25, and BYU won the match on another long ball landing outside to put the Wildcats away, 27-25.
“I am really just proud of the way our team was super resilient in that third set. We are happy to be here and grateful to be advancing,” said Olmstead.
The Cougars will face Arizona State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse. Coverage of the match will begin at 7 p.m. MST on ESPN+