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PROVO — The top-ranked BYU women’s volleyball team’s bid for an undefeated season is over — at the final minute.
Sara Kovac laid down a match-high 22 kills, and Tess Reid dished out 48 assists as Loyola Marymount stunned the No. 1 Cougars, 25-23, 27-25, 25-20 in the regular-season finale Tuesday evening at Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Roni Jones-Perry led BYU (27-1, 17-1 WCC) 20 of the Cougars 36 kills. Lyndie Haddock-Eppich dished out 31 assists, and Heather Gneiting added a match-high seven blocks for BYU, which out-blocked the Lions 13-4.
“I'm proud of the regular season we've had,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said in a statement from the school. "Nobody can take away what we've done this season and that it's been something special.
"We didn't play our best tonight so that means there's room for us to grow and get better."
BYU was the consensus top-ranked team in the country going into the final week of the regular season. But the Cougars slipped to No. 5 in the NCAA’s RPI ratings this past week, trailing one-loss Stanford, two-loss Minnesota, four-loss Texas and three-loss Illinois, primarily based on the Cougars’ strength-of-schedule.
BYU received 49 first-place votes in the AVCA coaches’ poll, but Stanford — who lost to the Cougars 25-22, 25-20, 21-25, 20-25, 15-11 in Provo back on Aug. 31 — received 15 first-place votes. That loss helped propel the Cougars to the No. 1 ranking back on Sept. 10, and they've held it ever since.
The Cougars fought through injuries late in the season, including a key loss to junior outside hitter McKenna Miller, the second-best hitter on the team behind star Roni Jones-Perry.
BYU wrapped up its fifth-straight West Coast Conference title — and the league’s auto-bid to the NCAA tournament — last Thursday with a 3-1 win over Saint Mary’s. There’s no concern over missing the postseason.
But one loss — especially to an LMU team that is 20-9 on the season, including a 10-8 mark in WCC play — will almost certainly impact the Cougars’ RPI and seeding hopes for the upcoming tournament.
BYU will learn its postseason fate Sunday night during the NCAA women's volleyball selection show.