By Dean Boerner | Editor-in-Chief

Setter Mary Hernandez sets Morgan Hughes in the Gaels match against BYU Thursday night in front of an excited crowd at McKeon Pavilion. (Courtesy of SMC Gaels)

Saint Mary’s battled against two of their toughest opponents this season, but the Gaels ultimately fell in a nerve-wracking matchup to BYU and in a one-sided affair with San Diego. No. 8 BYU won 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-10) on Thursday night, while No. 19 San Diego dominated in a three-set win Saturday afternoon, taking the match 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-18).

Matters went according to plan for the nationally-ranked Cougars in the first set on Thursday. Building leads of 11-4 and 18-10, BYU (17-1) was positioned to take the first set in runaway fashion, but Saint Mary’s stormed back. The Gaels won three consecutive points—thanks in part to a couple of BYU missed attacks—and found themselves back within five points. BYU pushed their lead back to six, but Saint Mary’s then embarked on a 5-0 run that featured two kills by Lindsey Knudsen set up by Mary Hernandez.

The Cougars extended their lead back to three and were up 21-18, but the Gaels finished the set on a 7-1 run to complete the opening set comeback. The Gaels used multiple kills from Knudsen during the set-ending run, which finished with a Crash Parker service ace.

The Gaels continued their momentum into the second set. Tied 6-6 with BYU, the Gaels went on a 7-1 run. Down 12-7, the Cougars tried to halt the Gaels run with a timeout, but Saint Mary’s picked up right where they left off, winning two consecutive points to build a 14-7 lead.

From that point, the Gaels never really looked back in the second set. The Cougars made things interesting with a 5-1 run to come within three, making the second set 23-20 in favor of Saint Mary’s. However, Saint Mary’s finished the job by winning the next two points, with the second coming off one of Lindsey Knudsen’s team-high 17 kills during the match.

Throughout the third set, the Cougars maintained a solid advantage. Down 16-12 at one point, Saint Mary’s managed to chip away at BYU’s lead until they were down by just one point after a Payton Rund service ace, but the Cougars didn’t flinch on their way to the 25-20 third-set win.

Looking back on the loss, Saint Mary’s will probably point to the fourth set as one they wish they could have back. The most competitive set of the match featured constant lead changes and neither team building a lead of more than three. At one point, an 11-8 BYU lead was neutralized by a 3-0 run from Saint Mary’s. At another point, an 18-15 Saint Mary’s lead turned into a 20-18 BYU advantage after five straight points by the Cougars. Knotted at 23-23, the set and also the match hung in the balance. In the end, it was BYU who prevailed with two straight points to take the fourth set 25-23.

 

With all the momentum after a crucial fourth set victory, BYU opened up an early fifth set lead on their way to a decisive 15-10 win in the closing set. Led by the match-high 24 kills of junior Veronica Jones-Perry, the Cougars stayed undefeated in WCC play and protected their status as the eight-ranked team in the nation.

Saint Mary’s hosted yet another nationally-ranked team when San Diego visited McKeon Pavilion on Saturday. Saint Mary’s did not fare well against the No. 19 USD, who used massive runs in each of the first two sets to build leads the Gaels simply could not surmount.

In the first set, Saint Mary’s hung with USD, coming within one twice against the Toreros. A service ace by Knudsen that made it 16-15 San Diego, and a kill by Lindsey Calvin made it 17-16 in favor of the Toreros. However, San Diego then mounted an 8-1 run to take the first set 25-17.

The second set went similarly. Down to San Diego 8-7, the Gaels succumbed to a 9-0 run by the Toreros, who ultimately took the set 25-19 and then the match with a 25-18 third-set win.

Saint Mary’s, now 5-12 overall and 1-6 in conference play, can look forward to a one-match week in which they host Pacific in a Saturday afternoon matchup.

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