Over the weekend, the Utah volleyball team split matches between two ranked Pac-12 opponents, and it improved its Pac-12 record to 5-3 — the best Pac-12 start in Ute history.
The No. 21 Utes (14-5, 5-3) traveled to Washington, and they fell to the No. 7 Washington Huskies (16-2, 6-2), and they then beat the No. 13 Washington State Cougars (15-4, 5-3).
“You always have to be pleased with a split on the road in this conference, no question, so we’re very happy to get a win in Pullman, that’s been a very difficult place for us to play,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “We’ve had some tough matches there in the past, so I’m really pleased with that.”
Utah started the rainy road swing in Seattle, where the Utes were swept by the Huskies, 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-18). Juniors Carly Trueman and Adora Anae led Utah with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. The Utes out-killed the Huskies by a 39-37 margin, but Washington won the game with service aces (the Huskies had nine aces to the Utes’ one) and blocks (6-3 in favor of Washington).
Utah led the first set 21-16, but Washington rallied back, scoring the next nine points (three on kills, one on an ace, and five on Ute errors) to take the first set. The second set was riddled with Ute errors as Washington cruised to a 25-15 set. Utah committed eight errors in the second set, and it posted a hitting percentage of just .027. The Huskies would close out the match in the third set, boasting 16 kills and a .467 hitting percentage.
“We struggled a lot, [the Huskies] played very well, they served tough, and I look forward to getting them at our place and playing them again, because I don’t think we played our best by any stretch,” Launiere said.
The Utes turned things around in Pullman, and they beat the Cougars in an exhilarating five-setter, 3-2 (25-22, 23-25, 17-25, 25-23, 15-9).
Anae had 18 kills in the victory, Megan Shughrou had two aces and 13 digs, Berkeley Oblad had seven blocks and Jessie Openshaw had 32 assists to lead Utah.
“We struggled in set three a lot, and after that set we regrouped, came out strong in set four,” Launiere said. “Adora got hot in that set, that made a big difference for us, and then once we got set four, I think our confidence was back.”
After falling behind 2-1, Utah claimed the fourth set to force a decisive fifth set. With the fourth set tied at 22-22, the Utes claimed three of the next four points to take the set. Trueman put the exclamation point on the final point of the set with a kill, assisted by Openshaw.
Utah started the fifth set with vigor, claiming five of the first six points of the final set. The Utes had eight kills in the fifth set, and Washington State collapsed, finishing the set with a .083 hitting percentage.
Up next, Utah faces the Oregon schools at home as they continue Pac-12 play. The weekend starts on Friday, Oct. 21, when the Utes host Oregon at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. On Saturday, the Utes play Oregon State.
“We are excited to be home, we’re tired of being on the road,” Launiere said. “I know we’re winning on the road, but we need to win at home as well.”