vball vs BYU

Sophomore Zoe Thiros (3) led the Zags in kills with nine, followed by Kennedy Croft with five.

If Thursday night’s matchup was supposed to be a home game for the Gonzaga University volleyball team (7-17, 3-10 WCC), it was hard to tell. 

Fans of BYU (22-1, 12-0 WCC) packed the Charlotte Y. Martin Centre, hoping to see their team take down GU for the 20th consecutive time. With its supporters loud and proud, especially during set points, BYU defeated GU in straight sets. 

The No. 6 team in the nation according to a poll done by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, BYU executed a well-balanced scoring attack by getting its entire arsenal of heavy hitters involved. Four different players had at least eight kills for BYU, but none of them had more than nine. 

“Every one of their hitters can score it and they have a lot of tools in their pouch,” said GU head volleyball coach Diane Nelson. “And not to mention, they’re super physical.”

BYU’s top point-producer was Heather Gneiting, who contributed to 11.5 of her team’s points and had a .538 hitting percentage. A junior middle blocker who towers over opponents at 6-foot-4-inches tall, Gneiting is one of multiple players that give BYU a size advantage over most opponents. While GU has no player taller than 6-foot-2-inches, BYU has six players over that height. 

For the Zags, this game was an improvement from when they matched up with BYU earlier in the season on Oct. 9. In both games, BYU swept GU in three sets, but the margins were much closer in this contest. 

Another difference was that GU seemed to adjust and get better each set. After losing the first set 25-9, GU closed the gap in the second and third set, losing them 25-19 and 25-21. 

While the game was intriguing enough to attract a large number of fans from both programs, it wasn’t the biggest story of the day for the GU volleyball team. 

Earlier on Thursday, Nelson announced she would resign as coach at the conclusion of the year.  After serving six years as head coach, Nelson has the fourth most wins in program history. 

“My hope coming in [was] that I leave this place better than I found it,” Nelson said. “And surely where the culture is right now is everything I hoped it would be and we continue to grow.”

Sophomore outside hitter Zoe Thiros appreciates what her coach brought to the program.

“Man, it’s crazy because I’ve been around her every day in my life for the last four years,” Thiros said. “She’s such a great technician of the game. She’s taught me so much and we’re just really gonna relish these last couple of weeks we have with her as our coach, our leader, and do our very best for her.”

Following its loss to BYU, GU hosts the University of San Diego this Saturday at noon. It will be another tough test for GU, as USD has the second best record in the conference, right behind BYU. 

Students can watch the game at Charlotte Y. Martin Centre or they can follow along with the match on the Gonzaga University Athletics website.

Henry Krueger is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @henrykrveger.

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