The BYU women’s volleyball team has lost only five matches in the Smith Fieldhouse since 2012.
Two of those loses have been to San Diego.
The Toreros persevered on Friday in front of a disappointed crowd of 4,405 fans, topping the ninth-ranked Cougars in five sets (25-19, 20-25, 25-19, 17-25, 15-10) and ending a 17-match home conference win streak for BYU.
“I think we just lost our focus a little bit when needed to maintain it,” BYU senior McKenna Miller said. “We slipped up and dug ourselves into holes that were really, really hard to get out of. We started to fight when it was a little too late.”
BYU (16-3 overall, 7-1 WCC) won the fourth set 25-17 to send the match to the fifth but ran out of gas offensively. The Cougars passing game broke down and San Diego took advantage, scoring three straight points on BYU errors for a 7-4 lead it never relinquished. BYU fought off a couple of match points but USD’s Megan Jacobsen tallied a kill for the 15-10 victory and the match.
“We had three kills (in the fifth set),” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “If you can’t kill the ball it will be really hard to win. We couldn’t get a kill and we lost the match.”
San Diego served and passed well in Set 1, staying in system and frustrating the Cougars with a diversified attack. Thayna Fayad had seven kills for the Toreros, who went on a 9-4 run to break open a close score and win going away 25-18. San Diego hit .333 in Set 1.
BYU responded with a great performance in Set 2, getting some hard swings from Miller and tremendous defense in the back row from Riley Lyman. The Cougars took a 19-15 lead when Miller had back-to-back kills and a Mary Lake ace pushed the advantage to 22-17. Heather Gneiting threw down a kill, taking the ball off the face of a USD defender, for set point at 24-20 then blocked the Toreros next attack for a 25-20 win.
The Toreros roared to a 12-3 lead in Set 3 by hitting better than .500, serving the Cougars off the court and reaping the rewards. BYU battled back and cut that nine-point deficit to four on two occasions, the last time at 21-17. But a net violation on USD was reversed after being challenged and at second set point, BYU served long, giving the Toreros the set at 25-19. USD ended up hitting .444 in Set 3 and took a two to one lead in the match.
BYU returned the favor in Set 4, getting off to a 3-0 start highlighted by a tremendous diving defensive play from 6-foot-5 Kennedy Eschenberg. The Cougars led 20-11 after a Kate Grimmer kill and a USD hitting error. At set point, Whitney Bower power dumped the ball off a Toreros defender for a 25-17 win, forcing the fifth and deciding set.
“I thought we struggled passing and when we couldn’t pass we lost those sets,” Olmstead said. “The sets we won I thought we passed well. Same thing with serving. I thought we served pretty easy the whole match.”
Madi Robinson tied a career-high with 18 kills, though only one in the fifth set. Miller finished with 13. Lake had 19 digs for the Cougars, which hit just .043 in the final set. Lyman had a strong match for BYU with two kills and seven digs before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the third set.
Fayad led San Diego (15-4, 8-0) with 19 kills, Jacobsen had 13, Frohling 12 and Lukes 10 in a very balanced offensive effort. Libero Annie Benbow had 21 digs and setter Anna Newsome contributed five kills, 49 assists and 12 digs.
“I think we’re doing good things,” Olmstead said. “I thought San Diego served us really well, so I think our ability to hang in tough against a good USD team when we were really not playing well, I really liked that. I’m disappointed that we didn’t play a little bit cleaner.”
The Cougars will return to WCC action next Thursday with a road trip that starts at Loyola Marymount and ends at Pepperdine.