The Boise State volleyball team’s historic season came to an end on the road Friday when the Broncos fell to No. 5 BYU 3-0 (25-6, 25-19, 25-10) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
BYU (29-1) — the 11th seed in the tournament — advances to host No. 16 Utah at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Broncos will head home after an early exit in their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in program history, but they have nothing to hang their heads about, Boise State coach Shawn Garus said after the match.
The Broncos (24-11) won nine of their final 11 matches heading into Friday’s showdown in Provo, Utah, including a four-set win over UNLV to claim their first Mountain West championship in program history.
“Tonight was rough,” Garus said by phone on Friday. “BYU was going to be tough to beat at our best and we weren’t at our best and it got out of hand right off the bat. We’re disappointed in the result, but that doesn’t take away from how proud I am of this group.”
BYU jumped out to a quick start, winning the opening set 25-6. It was the Cougars’ fastest set of the season. Boise State opened the second set with a 5-2 lead, but the Cougars reeled of five unanswered points to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 25-19 win.
The Cougars controlled the third and final set, building a 19-8 lead before closing out the match with a 25-10 win.
BYU posted 10 aces and 12 blocks as a team. The Cougars were led by Erin Livingston, who posted a match-high 15 kills, while Kenzie Koerber added seven kills and three aces. Kennedy Eschenberg finished with a match-high seven blocks.
Boise State has been led by junior outside hitter Lauren Ohlinger, whose 434 kills ranked No. 35 nationally coming into the match, but she was held without a kill until late in the final set. She missed on her first 13 attempts and finished with just one kill and six errors.
“We weren’t passing very well, so she wasn’t getting very many good looks on the outside,” Garus said. “But BYU certainly keyed on her and put a big block up on her time and time again.”
The Broncos were led by Alyssa Wissinger, who posted five kills, while Alli O’Harra added four and both Jordan Miller and Paige Bartsch finished with three. Setter Danielle Boss finished with two kills and 12 assists.
This season has come to an end for the Broncos, but Garus said the future is bright. Boise State is expected to return the bulk of its roster next year, including Ohlinger and Wissinger, who combined for 653 kills this season.
“You want to get to this point to experience what it’s really going to take,” Garus said. “I think this will only make us better with all of our young kids returning.”