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BYU women’s volleyball needed a win. The Cougars got one against rival Utah

With the victory over the Utes, the No. 15-ranked Cougars snapped a three-match losing streak.

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BYU’s Erin Livingston celebrates a point on Utah in volleyball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Brigham Young’s women’s volleyball team wanted — and needed — a win Thursday night as it traveled to rival Utah’s home floor. The No. 15-ranked Cougars were in the midst of a three-match skid — all at the hands of top-10 opponents.

The Cougars got their wish, topping Utah 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 28-26, 27-25).

“It’s not easy to be working to get out of whatever little rut we were in,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “I think that we went in this week looking to get better, and they worked hard for three days to come up and play another away game against a really good team.”

The two teams added more highlights to the rivalry reel, including some stellar rallies that tipped in both teams’ favor at one point or another. But in the end, the Cougars’ defensive passing effort was as well executed as any coach could have asked for.

“Our defenders in the back row just didn’t give up, and I saw some defensive efforts that I haven’t seen all year that I was really happy to see that came out tonight,” Olmstead said.

Olmstead thought it was the best passing effort of the year for the Cougars, and also highlighted Erin Livingston’s 20 kills, which tied her career high.  

“I feel so confident in our back row, we are just so scrappy,” said Livingston. “I know I can go up and take a high rip and that my defenders are going to be covering me.”

The Cougars tallied a season-high 77 digs on the night as they played patiently and problem-solved ways to chip away at the leads Utah took throughout the match.

BYU found itself behind in every set, but the final two were the most competitive between the two teams with a combined 11 lead changes and 32 ties. In the end, the Cougars found ways to get the final points, including an ace by Alyssa Montoya to win the match.

“BYU got it done when they needed to get it done,” Utah coach Beth Launiere said. “It was a gritty performance by our team and I’m really proud of them.”

Utah faced the ranked Cougars without its top player in Madelyn Robinson, who wasn’t available for the match, and at times had three freshmen on the floor.

Abby Karich, who made the start in place of Robinson, finished behind only Livingston with 17 kills on the night, while Vanessa Ramirez was outstanding for Utah with a match-high 22 digs. BYU’s Heather Gneiting added 14 kills, which missed her season-high by one. 

Both teams continue this week with in-state battles as Utah hosts Utah State on Friday while BYU hosts Utah Valley University on Saturday.