SAN DIEGO – Senior outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon totaled 18 kills to lead No. 16 BYU women’s volleyball to a four-set win over No. 21 San Diego (25-20, 25-20, 19-25, 25-17) at Jenny Craig Pavilion on Wednesday.
Ballard-Nixon’s 18 kills came on an efficient .484 clip as the senior added seven digs, three blocks and an ace to her stat line. Senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg matched her season high of 11 kills on a .450 hitting percentage while finishing with three blocks.
Sophomore setter Whitney Bower recorded her fourth consecutive double-double, ending the day with 41 assists, 14 digs, two blocks, a pair of kills and an ace. Freshman libero Madi Allen finished one assist shy of her own double-double, totaling 16 digs and nine assists.
BYU (11-1, 10-1 WCC) handed San Diego (11-2, 11-2 WCC) its second loss of the season. The Cougars held the Toreros to a .152 hitting percentage, almost .120 lower than their season average.
Ballard-Nixon, Eschenberg and freshman outside hitter Erin Livingston each tallied four kills apiece to lead the Cougars to a 25-20 win in the first set. Both Eschenberg and Livingston each connected on two early kills to help BYU jump out to a 7-1 advantage. The Toreros used a 7-2 run to rally back to take a 14-12 lead midway through the game. The Cougars answered with a 9-1 run to reclaim the lead and make the score 21-15 before freshman middle blocker Leilani Dodson eventually ended the set with a kill.
Ballard-Nixon dropped an ace and had three kills to help BYU take a four-point lead early in the second game, 11-7. The senior added three more kills to fuel a 6-0 Cougar run that extended the lead to 17-9. Following a late rally attempt by San Diego, a kill by sophomore opposite Kate Grimmer clinched the set for BYU, 25-20.
The Toreros outscored the Cougars 10-4 to open the third set of the match. Ballard-Nixon and Eschenberg both had kills as BYU fought to bring the score within four points, 15-11. Dodson connected on four consecutive kills late in the set before San Diego closed the door on any comeback attempt, winning the set 25-19.
Several Torero errors doomed San Diego early in the fourth set as BYU capitalized on the mistakes to claim a 14-4 lead. The Cougars added to their lead with an ace by Dodson and two kills by Eschenberg, making the score 18-5. Kills by Ballard-Nixon and Grimmer ended an 8-2 Torero run while helping BYU maintain its double-digit lead, 23-13. One final kill by Ballard-Nixon secured the set, 25-17, and the match for the Cougars.
BYU and San Diego will play the second match of the season series at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Saturday. The match is slated to start at 1 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast on BYUtv and the BYUtv App.