PROVO, Utah -- A back and forth match saw the Saint Mary's volleyball team come up just a bit short at the very end as the Gaels battled valiantly but fell 25-14, 23-25, 26-24, 21-25, 15-13 at BYU on Thursday night.
Saint Mary's leaves Provo with a 6-5 overall record and 2-1 mark in West Coast Conference play. BYU improves to 9-3 overall and 2-0 in conference.
Kristina Graven continued her standout season, leading Saint Mary's with 21 kills. She also had 10 digs. Jordan Shaw added 15 kills and 11 digs and Samantha Tinsley also played well with 13 kills, 10 digs and a .455 hitting percentage.
"This was one of those matches where it was a privilege to be a part of it. BYU is a solid team and they played well," Saint Mary's coach Rob Browning said. "After a slow start our girls responded well and came back strong for the rest of the match. We certainly had our chances to win this match and didn't get it done. But, I'm proud of the way our girls played and we will get ourselves ready to play a very good San Diego team on Saturday."
The fifth set carried plenty of intensity and emotion, and Saint Mary's took the early lead with kills by Shaw and Tinsley putting SMC up 2-0. After three points in a row by BYU, the Gaels jumped ahead again with an attack error and two kills by Tinsley putting SMC up 5-3.
That's when BYU struck back, scoring four of the next five points to take the lead back. Saint Mary's would get within one point several times late in the set, but could never pull even as Alexa Gray provided the winning point with a kill.
BYU took control early on Thursday, with a 6-2 run laying the groundwork for a strong set. Midway through the period, Saint Mary's began to show signs of a rally but, after closing the deficit to four at 12-8, the Cougars went on another run and closed the set strong with a kill from Gray ending things.
Saint Mary's responded in the second to square the match. Trailing 9-7, the Gaels went on a 9-2 run to take control. Graven contributed two kills to the charge, and despite a late BYU push, Saint Mary's held on with a kill by Danica Mendivil bringing the set to a close.
Another close set ensued, this time with BYU earning the close win. Tied at 24, an attack error by Saint Mary's and a block by Gray gave the Cougars the 26-24 win and sent the match to the fourth with BYU in front.
Just like they did in the second, the Gaels used a run early in the set to take the advantage. This time, SMC trailed 5-4 before a 6-2 run put the Gaels in front 10-6. BYU would fight back, narrowing the gap to 23-21 late in the set, but a service error by the Cougars and a kill by Graven sent the match to a decisive fifth.
That Saint Mary's took the match to the fifth was notable for the fact that BYU had not lost a set at home yet this season. The Cougars hadn't lost two sets at home since Nov. 27, 2011 against Gonzaga.
Saint Mary's returns to the court Saturday as it concludes this week's road trip with a 1 p.m. match against No. 8-ranked San Diego.