The No. 21 Utah volleyball team split its pair of matches at the Huntsman Center over the weekend, losing to No. 23 Oregon and beating Oregon State.
“I would like to get two [wins] at home, but I’ll take one and get back in the gym,” said head coach Beth Laurniere. “I didn’t think we played super consistently, so I was glad to get the win against Oregon State, I thought that one was very important.”
The pair of home matches came after the Utes had played their last four games on the road. The team was happy to be competing at home again.
“It felt good. For some reason, we’re killing it on the road, so we’re just trying to bring it back home,” said senior libero Tess Sutton. “It felt good, definitely, to have all our fans around us and it was just a really good atmosphere, so I really give it to the fans to pump us up and it just felt pretty good to be back home.”
Utah started out the weekend on Friday playing its eighth ranked team of the season in the No. 23 Ducks, losing a tough five-setter, 3-2 (27-25, 25-27, 25-22, 20-25, 11-1).
The Utes and the Ducks split the first two sets, with Utah taking the first set on the strength of a 4-1 run to close out the set, with an ace from Berkeley Oblad, a kill from Carly Trueman and two errors by Oregon. The Ducks fought back in the second set and made a 3-1 run to break the 24-24 tie and claim the set, thanks to three kills. Utah turned in one of its best performances in the match in set three, hitting .316 with 20 kills as the Utes took a 2-1 lead.
Utah couldn’t finish off the Ducks, as they rallied to claim the next two sets hitting percentages of .238 in the fourth set and .273 in the fifth set. In comparison, the Utes hit .140 in the fourth and .045 in the fifth.
Adora Anae led the Utes in kills with 16, and Jessie Openshaw finished with 32 assists in the loss. Utah regrouped and faced Oregon State on Saturday, beating the Beavers in another five set match, 3-2 (25-15, 23-25, 21-25, 27-25, 15-9)
After the loss to Oregon, Sutton said Luarniere told the team to start strong.
“We need to come on strong in the first, second, and third, so that we finish those games, rather than waiting until the last two,” Sutton said.
The Utes couldn’t get their coach what she wanted, falling behind 1-2 after the first three sets. Utah had an excellent performance in the first set, hitting .519 as they dominated the Beavers, 25-15. But the Utes’ hitting percentage fell to .108 and .243 in the second and third sets, respectively, as Oregon State took the lead.
Laurniere said the turning point in the Oregon State match was set four.
“I felt like finally, in set four, we really started figuring some things out, and then by set five, I felt like we were in control,” Laurinere said.
Utah had hitting percentages of .372 and .400 in the fourth and fifth sets, and they held the Beavers to .267 and .043. The Utes registered 19 kills in the fourth set to stay alive and finished off the fourth set with an Oblad kill. After a back and forth fifth set, Utah closed the set — and the match — with four straight points, two kills (from Anae and Eliza Katoa) and two OSU errors.
Anae finished with 16 kills and Tawnee Luafalemana finished with 12 in the win. Bailey Choy had 30 assists, and Brianna Doehrmann had 16 digs to lead the Utes.
Next up, Utah heads to Los Angeles to take on No. 24 USC on Friday and No. 12 UCLA on Saturday.