After sweeping Santa Clara for their eighth straight victory, the BYU women’s volleyball team got a little history lesson.
The 14th-ranked Cougars (15-1 overall, 14-1 WCC) clinched at least a share of the West Coast Conference title with Tuesday’s 25-18, 25-20, 25-11 victory against the Broncos and can claim the league title outright with another win on Wednesday.
They played on Elaine Michaelis Court and then the Cougars got to hear from the legend herself in the locker room.
“It was so cool having here there,” middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg said. “She talked to us about keeping our focus and how that can really help us. It was neat to hear how she paved the way for us.”
Michaelis was the program’s volleyball coach for more than 40 years, retiring in 2001 with 886 victories.
“She talked to the kids about some thoughts she had about team playing the game and she was able to share some experiences that will inspire and motivate them,” current BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “She comes to almost every game and it’s good for the freshmen to know who she is. She really laid the foundation for this program.”
Michaelis had to like what she saw on Tuesday as the Cougars closed strong in the first two sets and dominated the third.
“I thought today was one of our best serving matches,” Olmstead said. “We really served well and that put a lot of pressure on Santa Clara. The girls did not let up and that allowed us to get in good spots for blocking. We held their outside hitters down and that really helped us defensively. Offensively, I thought we passed one of our better matches. Whitney (Bower) did a good job equally distributing the ball.”
Freshman Erin Livingston had six kills in the first set and finished with a team-high 10. Taylen Ballard-Nixon hit .467 and had eight kills, as did Kate Grimmer, who hit .500. Libero Madi Allen had ten digs and middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg contributed five kills (no errors) on 14 swings and added three block assists.
The Cougars hit .346 with 25 assists and eight digs from Bower.
“One of really cool things about this team the desire to improve,” Eschenberg said. “Every day at practice we’re working on things and seeing how we can be better as a team. This team is really close. We love to play together and that’s huge. We love to fight together and we want to win.”
Julia Sangiacomo had 15 kills for Santa Clara but hit just .205.
The same two teams meet again tomorrow in the regular season finale for BYU. A win for the Cougars would lock up the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and make Selection Sunday more about celebration that anxiety.
“Our goal has been to make the tournament, knowing it’s going to be a smaller field,” Olmstead said. “We want to be the very best version of the team that we can and make the tournament. That’s our focus and our goal, and we’re going to be focused on Santa Clara tomorrow.”