Freshman outside hitter McKenna Miller helped No. 10 BYU women’s volleyball past Loyola Marymount in a five-set (16-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-13) thriller Tuesday night to clinch the West Coast Conference title outright for the third-consecutive season.
"I am so proud of the team," BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said. "Loyola Marymount came out on fire and played a great match. Our team stayed positive and never gave up. That was a total team effort tonight and everyone contributed."
Miller led the Cougars with 21 kills on a .317 clip. Lyndie Haddock set the team with 35 assists, while Mary Lake contributed 23 digs. Whitney Young Howard had seven blocks and nine kills and Amy Boswell collected 15 kills in the win.
Loyola Marymount (19-11, 10-8 WCC) took a 6-3 lead to start the decisive fifth set after a 4-0 run. BYU (27-3, 16-2 WCC) scored the next four points, with help from three Lion attack errors, to take a 7-6 lead. A Boswell kill and solo block kept the Cougars ahead at 12-10, forcing a Loyola Marymount timeout. The Lions scored the next two points to knot the score back at 12 apiece, but a Miller kill gave BYU set point at 14-13. An overpass kill from Miller then gave the Cougars the set and match, 15-13.
Loyola Marymount took an 8-3 advantage to start the first set with help from back-to-back blocks. BYU struggled offensively to begin the set, as the Lions picked up their fifth block to increase their advantage to seven at 13-6. The Cougars then began to pick things up offensively by going on a 4-2 run, capped off by a Howard kill, to come back within four, down 17-13. The rally proved too late as Loyola Marymount ended on a 7-2 run to take the set 25-16.
The two squads battled to begin the second set, as a Boswell kill evened things up at 7-7. The Lions then went on a 7-2 run to take a five-point advantage at 14-9. A 6-2 rally for Loyola Marymount ensued to extend its lead to 20-12. BYU couldn’t find anything offensively to end the set as the Lions won it 25-16.
A Howard kill helped the Cougars to a 4-2 advantage to begin the third set. Loyola Marymount quickly closed the gap, knotting up the score at 11 apiece after two kills from Savannah Slattery. A kill from Danelle Parady-Stetler gave BYU a 15-13 edge in the set, and consecutive Boswell kills extended the lead to four, 18-14. The Cougars increased the lead to six at 22-16, but the Lions climbed back in the set, trailing three at 23-20 after a kill. BYU answered with the next two points, however, to take the set 25-20 on a Howard and Veronica Jones-Perry block.
Back-to-back Howard blocks helped the Cougars to a 5-2 lead at the start of the fourth set. An 8-1 run then helped Loyola Marymount take a 12-8 lead. BYU collected the next three points, followed by three-straight points from the Lions, to keep Loyola Marymount ahead by four at 15-11. A Jones-Perry ace helped the Cougars on a 5-0 run to retake the advantage at 16-15. A pair of Miller kills tied the set at 20-all, and a Miller and Howard block gave BYU a 22-20 edge. The Lions cut the lead to one at 23-22, but Lacy Haddock ended the set 25-22 for the Cougars with a kill, sending the match to the decisive fifth set.
Holding the conference's automatic bid, the Cougars next await an NCAA tournament berth. The NCAA Division I Volleyball Selection Show takes place Sunday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. MST, and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Royce Hinton is the men's and women's volleyball sports information director for BYU Athletic Communications.