When sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer brings the energy, BYU is tough to beat.
Grimmer led BYU with 13 kills and hit .385 on Wednesday as the 12th-ranked Cougars swept Gonzaga 25-19, 25-22, 25-22 in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Grimmer added six digs and two block assists in a match where she seemed to show up every time BYU needed to gain some momentum.
“Kate’s strength is the energy she brings to the team, her enthusiasm and her arm,” Cougar coach Heather Olmstead said. “She knows that. We saw that when we recruited her. She makes people around her want to play better. In this match she was transitioning to be available for Whitney (Bower) to find her.”
In a match dominated by defense — both teams hit under .200 — Grimmer’s timely attacks showed up near the end of every set. In Set 1, Grimmer had four kills including the winner at set point. In the second set, she was part of a key 4-0 run that led to a win. The third set was also close when Grimmer fired a shot off the face of a Gonzaga defender for a 23-20 lead.
“Our defense was awesome,” Grimmer said. “Our blockers were in good positions and our defense was good behind them. It was a team effort and we were frustrating Gonzaga.”
Taylen Ballard-Nixon reached 12 kills for BYU (5-0). Freshman middle Leilani Dodson had five block assists and freshman libero Madi Allen contributed 16 digs.
Ballard-Nixon served an ace and earned a kill, then Bower made a terrific play on the next point, evading a teammate on the floor to send a bump set to Livingston for a kill. BYU led 20-14 in Set 1. Gonzaga went on a 5-0 run to close to 20-18 and it looked like it would be six points in a row when a Cougar attack went long. But Olmstead challenged the call and after video review the point was awarded to BYU on the touch. The Cougars scored five of the next six points, including Grimmer’s fourth kill at set point for a 25-19 win.
BYU overcame eight hitting errors in Set 2 to win a close contest. The Cougars surged ahead 24-20 with a Grimmer kill, a combo block from Ballard-Nixon and Dodson then a pair of net violations by the Bulldogs. At second set point, Gonzaga committed another net violation for a 25-22 BYU win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Cougars led by as many as three points early in Set 3 but Gonzaga took the lead at 18-17 after blocking a BYU attack. Tied at 20, BYU scored three straight points, including two kills from Grimmer, for a 23-20 lead. The Bulldogs closed to 23-22, but the Cougars blocked a ball that the visitors couldn’t handle to get to match point, and Ballard-Nixon ended it with a laser to the back row.
Gonzaga (1-4) hit just .178, thought Kennedy Croft hit .474 and had 11 kills.
“I loved the way Madi was patrolling the back line,” Olmstead said. “She’s playing more assertively and she’s getting more comfortable in her role. We had good touches on the block and I liked our transition swings. I think we can be a better serving team. I know we can serve better and tougher and I think we can pass better than we have the past couple of games.”
The Cougars, who beat Gonzaga 3-1 on Tuesday, continued their domination of the Zags. BYU leads the overall series 23-1 and is 12-1 against Gonzaga in the Smith Fieldhouse. Olmstead has never lost to the Bulldogs (12-0).
BYU finishes a four-match home stand next week with Loyola Marymount coming to Provo on Tuesday and Wednesday.