No. 11 BYU bounces to sweep of Pacific in WCC opener
Female athletes on college campuses work just as hard (if not harder) than their male counterparts who usually get all the attention and all the glory.
At BYU, that’s not the case, especially this week.
The Cougar volleyball team regularly draws big crowds to the Smith Fieldhouse and is ranked No. 11 in the country. On Thursday, BYU opened the West Coast Conference season with a convincing 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-12, 25-17) of an overmatched Pacific team that never led in any of the three sets.
If the Cougars had an extra bounce in their step, here’s the reason: Earlier this week a name, image and likeness deal between BYU and SmartyStreets, a Provo company that provides geocoding services to businesses around the world, pledged $6000 to each of the 300 female student-athletes on BYU’s campus.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for female athletes,” BYU sophomore libero Maddie Allen said. “We are kind of underrated but we’re so blessed and grateful to have this opportunity. I’m so excited to be here to represent BYU. It’s so new and I think a lot of people are just trying to get used to it. Our staff helps us so much. They make it super simple and easy for us, because I think we all deserve it. What I love about BYU is that even if someone gets an individual award, it’s a team award as well.”
BYU coach Heather Olmstead said she’s heard something was in the works and told her girls to get up at 6 a.m. on Tuesday to get to the 7 a.m. meeting at a local hotel for the announcement.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity that our female students have to represent their brand, to work with SmartyStreets and to just make some money,” Olmstead said. “Being able to make some extra income off their name, image and likeness, I think it’s important for them. It’s hard to have a job with what we require of them as a student athlete. I’m happy for them. BYU has shown time and time again that they’re supportive of student athletes. They want to support these kids to prepare them for life after being a student athlete, whether it’s professional volleyball, becoming a CEO or raising a family. They want to support their dreams and goals and that’s pretty cool.”
BYU (1-0 WCC, 11-1 overall) sailed through the first set against Pacific, hitting .355 and holding the visitors to -.061. The Cougars led 10-2 early and were never challenged after showing off some nice passing off of some aggressive Tiger attacks.
Kenzie Koerber came out of the back row to approach set point and freshman Sophie Callahan dropped a strike down the line for the winner at 25-13. Koerber and Callahan had four kills each in the first set.
Pacific (0-1, 3-9) managed to stay within striking distance early in Set 2 and trailed 10-7 after a BYU net violation. But the Cougars took off from there and eased to a 20-10 lead after three straight Tigers hitting errors. BYU coach Heather Olmstead substituted freely and the Cougars took the set 25-12 after Tayler Hifo’s sneaky serve ended up in a kill for Kennedy Eschenberg on the overpass.
Pacific tied Set 3 at 1-1, 5-5 and 10-10 as BYU struggled to maintain its offensive efficiency. Taylen Ballard-Nixon had a pair of aces in a 5-0 run for a 20-14 lead and pushed through to the end. Heather Gneiting fired off an ace to get to 22-16. After a long rally that featured an incredible diving dig from Gretchen Reinert, freshman Elyse Stowell went off the block to get to set point. Whitney Llarenas took the steep angle on the slide and smashed the ball to the ground, finishing off the set 25-17 and the match 3-0.
Koerber led BYU with nine kills (.353) and 10 digs and Stowell had a career-high with eight kills, hitting .538. The Cougars hit below their season average of .320, which was third in the country, and finished at .277. However, the defense did it’s job, holding Pacific to -.038 for the match.
“I like how we were focused,” Olmstead said. “We got a lot of people in and I thought we stayed focused and stayed the course. We put Pacific in a some tough spots and made them uncomfortable.”
BYU will host Saint Mary’s in the Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.