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Set streak ends at 27 but No. 8 BYU rallies past LMU

By Daily Herald - | Oct 15, 2021

The BYU volleyball team celebrates a point during a match against Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – No. 8 BYU women’s volleyball secured a victory on Thursday night in a four-set match (22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-18) against Loyola Marymount in the Gersten Pavilion.

The win gives BYU its tenth consecutive victory, now holding a 17-1 record and an undefeated 7-0 record in the West Coast Conference. The Cougars had won 27 straight sets since losing to then-No. 4 Pitt 3-1 on Sept. 10 but LMU ended that streak with a first-set win on Thursday.

BYU hit a .348 hitting percentage, overpowering LMU’s .176. Additionally, the Cougars racked up nine points blocking, surpassing LMU by 7.5 points.

Junior middle blocker Heather Gneiting led the team with 12 kills on the night, hitting a .474 clip. Two other Cougars slammed double-digit kills, including senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon (11) and sophomore outside hitter Erin Livingston (10).

The first set started off with errors on both sides until LMU’s Audrey Klemp achieved the first kill of the set, tying the score 2-2. Ballard-Nixon laid down two kills for BYU, but the Lions continued to lead 6-4.

BYU managed a 2-0 run after two errors by LMU, but three more errors by the Cougars inhibited them from moving ahead at 10-6. Almost every point, aside from four combined kills amongst the teams, resulted from an error. After another two errors by LMU and a kill by opposite hitter Kenzie Koerber, the Cougars tied the score at 12-12.

Cleaning up play, the Lions notched three consecutive kills, taking back the lead at 15-12. In addition to three combined kills from Ballard-Nixon and Gneiting, libero Gretchen Reinert celebrated her first kill as a Cougar at 19-17.

Ultimately, the Lions put up 13 kills, compared to BYU’s 10, allowing LMU to take the set win at 25-22. This was BYU’s first set loss since losing to Pitt back on Sept. 10, snapping a string of 27 consecutive set victories.

Under pressure, the Cougars started off Set 2 with two quick kills by Koerber and Gneiting, leading 3-2. The Lions challenged back with two kills, tying up the score at 4-4.

BYU broke the tie by managing a 6-0 run, its longest of the match, thanks to two aces and three kills coming from Gneiting, Koerber and junior setter Whitney Bower.

The teams traded kills until BYU led by eight points at 21-13. Tack on three kills by Livingston and the Cougars took the set win at 25-16.

Four errors by LMU and kills by Koerber and Ballard-Nixon allowed BYU to take a 6-3 lead in Set 3. Bower and Livingston added two kills, but LMU remained close behind at 9-6. Four Cougars added kills, extending the lead to 16-11.

At 20-15, Gneiting achieved her tenth kill of the night, matching her season-high tally. At game point, BYU made four consecutive attack errors, reducing its lead to 24-22. A bad set by LMU gave BYU its final point, securing a second set win of 25-22.

BYU started the fourth set going up 3-0, including an ace and a kill by middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg. LMU made it on the board with a kill, but followed with two errors, trailing 5-1. Ballard-Nixon notched two consecutive kills, but another two attack errors by the Cougars brought the score to 8-5.

Kills by Bower, Ballard-Nixon and Livingston extended the lead to 13-7. LMU’s Megan Rice tallied her 11th kill of night at 13-8, leading in kills overall.

Gneiting achieved a new season-high kill count of 12 at 19-13, followed with another kill by Livingston. After LMU’s 24th attack error of the night, BYU secured a hard-fought win at 25-18.

Next up, No. 24 Pepperdine will host BYU on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 12 p.m. PDT in the Firestone Fieldhouse. The Waves pushed San Diego to five sets on Thursday before falling 3-2.

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