In its season-opening home match of the season, the BYU women's volleyball team defeated Ohio State 3-1 (32-34, 30-28, 30-23, 30-26) in the first day of the BYU Mizuno Classic presented by Courtyard Marriott at the Smith Fieldhouse.
"We wanted to win this match," BYU coach Karen Lamb said. "We were tight in the beginning, but loosened up and really started to play well down the stretch."
A crowd of 2,071 watched a match filled with great defensive play, numerous long rallies and timely plays by BYU. The Cougars (5-3) were led by three players with double-digit kills on the night. Kim Wilson led the BYU hit parade with 13 kills, followed by Carrie Bowers and April Varner with 11 kills each.
Lauren Richards played a stellar overall game as she set career highs with five aces and five blocks. She also dished out 41 assists, with nine digs, seven kills and a match-high .417 hitting percentage.
"Lauren loves to compete," Lamb said. "She's dynamic. She made some really good plays at crucial times and did a great job serving." The Cougars fell behind early in the first game and the Buckeyes' lead peaked at 8-3. BYU would chip into the Ohio State (3-2) lead and tied the game for the first time at 13-13. The Cougars would take their first lead at 20-19 on an ace from Richards. The game would go back-and-forth from there, but Heather Whalen and Stacey Gordon ended the game with back-to-back kills.
The second game was another close one that see-sawed between the two teams. The Cougars were out-hit .286 to .250, but BYU was buoyed by timely aces and blocks to spur them to the win.
BYU, behind the strong serving of Richards, started the third game on fire, reeling off the first five points. The Cougars' early lead would bulge to seven at 8-1. Gordon kept the Buckeyes in the game and had five kills to draw them within 8-5 of the Cougars. BYU would effectively shut Gordon down for the rest of the game as she failed to register another kill. The game was sealed by a Laura Nielsen kill.
Game four saw both teams scrap for points as each team traded sideouts. Neither team led by more than three points until the Cougars, on the strength of a Bowers kill and a Lindsey Lewis-Hartsock ace, went on a decisive 4-0 run to take a 27-23 lead.
Wilson and Nielsen ended the match with a block on Whalen.
Uila Crabbe led the defense with 14 digs and Nielsen set a season-high and led the match with eight blocks. Wilson also put up 10 digs for her second career double-double.
BYU contained Buckeye All-American Gordon by holding her to a .236 hitting percentage and 22 kills. On the match BYU held a team blocks advantage of 15.5-10.5.
On Saturday, BYU will face Rice at Noon, before concluding the tournament against No. 8 Penn State at 7:30 p.m. In the other match of the day Rice will face Ohio State at 5 p.m.
"We need to play well against Rice," Lamb said. "They've got some really good outside hitters. We'll start to think about Penn State after that match." Earlier in the day, No. 8 Penn State opened tournament play with a 3-0 (30-27, 30-26, 30-14) sweep of Rice.