Weber State fell just short of pulling off an upset as BYU broke the deadlock and pulled together a near-perfect fifth set to close out a 3–2 victory at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Sept. 2.
This was the first of three games for both teams in the Brigham Young Invitational tournament, and they both performed to impress in front of a near full-capacity crowd.
The Cougars began the first set with a 6–3 lead including 2 kills from graduate opposite hitter Kenzie Koerber before WSU strung together 5 straight points to pull ahead 8–6 as senior outside hitter Rylin Adams served up an ace and forced BYU outside hitter Taylen Ballard-Nixon to commit two attack errors.
Both teams found it difficult to hold the lead as Weber State was up 18–15 and looked comfortable before a 6–2 run for BYU crashed the momentum and the Cougars erased the deficit to lead 21–20.
A pair of kills by Adams saw WSU edging closer to taking the first set with the score 23–22, but couldn’t get the control they needed as both Adams and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Emma Mangum were not able to avoid attack errors as BYU came back to win the first set 25–23.
The second set was also back-and-forth before the Cougars went on a 10–3 run after five straight serves by libero Madi Allen caused defensive mishaps in the Wildcats’ half and the lead widened to 20–14.
Weber State pulled off a comeback of their own and silenced the Cougars fans as the Wildcats put together an 11–3 run thanks to 4 kills by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Dani Nay and 3 kills by Adams to even up the game 1–1.
It didn’t look great for WSU at the beginning of the third set as senior setter Ashlyn Power mistimed her serve and the Cougars’ strong front line forced two attack errors from Mangum and Nay to give an early 3–0 advantage to BYU.
BYU ran away with the set as they were winning 23–13 as Koerber, Ballard-Nixon and middle blocker Heather Gneiting combined for 10 kills and Ballard-Nixon recorded an ace in the third set.
There was a late Wildcat surge as Nay put 3 kills on the board to minimize the deficit to 23–16, but Weber State couldn’t get back into the set at that point as Koerber scored a kill and Nay committed a service error to end the set 25–18 for BYU and 2–1 for set wins.
Going into the fourth set, WSU needed a spark to gain the momentum back in their favor and force a fifth set.
Nay and Adams were ready and positioned to continue to provide the offensive firepower needed for the Wildcats.
Both outside hitters racked up 15 of the 25 points scored for WSU in the fourth set, 14 kills and an ace by Nay, while BYU was slowly falling behind.
The ace by Nay gave the Wildcats a healthy 13–7 lead until Adams and Mangum received two attack errors and the Cougars’ middle blocker, Kennedy Eschenberg, forced Power to be charged with a block error after reaching over the net with her hand and touching the ball. The 6-point lead turned into a 2-point margin as BYU cut the score to 13–11 for Weber State.
WSU regrouped with a timeout soon after and came back on the floor in astonishing fashion. Adams earned 3 kills in a row, and all of a sudden, the Wildcats extended their lead to 20–13 and eventually closed the fourth set to 25–19 by slowing down a late comeback attempt by the Cougars.
Things took a turn for the worst for Weber State in the fifth set as BYU came out and proved why they are a nationally-ranked volleyball program.
It was tied at 2 in the beginning of the set as both Nay and BYU outside hitter Erin Livingston both scored a pair of kills.
All the hope that the Wildcats could pull off a major upset vanished after a kill by Eschenberg.
BYU used one of their substitutions on setter Tayler Tausinga Hifo, who proved to be a game changer.
Tausinga Hifo served back-to-back aces and watched as the grit and desire from the Wildcats quickly vanished as BYU continued to put the pressure on WSU.
Weber State would only score 2 more points before Koerber finished the game with an ace and BYU captured a 15–4 dominant showing in the fifth frame to win the game 3–2.
Three WSU players recorded double-doubles in the loss.
Adams would finish with 14 digs and a career-high 25 kills to lead the team, and Nay had 22 kills and 19 digs for the Wildcats. Power had 50 assists and 13 digs on the night in Provo.
As for BYU, Koerber had 17 kills and 13 digs, while Ballard-Nixon and outside hitter Erin Livingston had 12 kills. Setter Whitney Bower assisted 55 times and had 13 digs, and Allen had 4 aces and 14 digs.