It was a match that only two in-state rivals like the No. 16 University of Utah volleyball team (8-2) and No. 14 BYU (9-1) would put each other through. Five sets later with the frame tied at 16-16, it was back-to-back kills by the Cougars that downed the Utes 18-16 to put a stop to Utah’s seven-match win streak on Thursday, Sept. 14. Utah won set one 25-16, before dropping sets two and three 25-13 and 25-17. A 25-20 win belonged to the Utes in the fourth set, but BYU’s win in the fifth set sealed the 3-2 victory for the Cougars.
“I liked the effort a lot,” said Utah head coach Beth Launiere. “I liked that we were able to come back. I like how we started out playing great volleyball. Everything was clicking. But I liked how we came back in sets four and five a lot. I thought it showed a lot about our team.”
Utah racked up 67 total kills. Of those kills, Dani Barton lead the team with 15 of them, plus seven blocks. Adora Anae recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 13 kills and 12 digs, while Bailey Choy had 54 assists to set a new season-high. Utah out-blocked BYU 13-7, but it was outhit by the Cougars who had a hitting percentage of .277 compared to Utah’s .259.
Anae had six kills alone and Choy pitched in 18 assists en route to the team’s set one win that showcased a Utah team ready to compete in a rivalry environment on its home court. But that energy depleted going into sets two and three where the Cougars took the edge over Utah, who was held to a .034 hitting percentage. Although Utah bumped its hitting percentage up in the third set to .344, it still came shy of clinching the set.
“I think they just made some changes and we didn’t change quick enough to take them on,” said Berkeley Oblad.
In the fourth set, Utah turned things around and got back on track. Launerie attributes that success to her team settling back down. The match was pushed to a decisive fifth set that went back-and-forth, down to the wire. Utah trailed 12-9 but quickly went on a 3-0 run. A kill by BYU was followed by a kill from Tawnee Laufalemana. BYU had two more kills before Anae tied the match at 15-15. The Cougars won after taking the final two points.
An area that Utah struggled with was service errors as it had 14 on the night. Those errors are something that Launiere believes played a role in the outcome of the match.
“That hasn’t been a problem for us so that was maybe the biggest difference,” Launiere said. “They outhit us but not by a ton, we out-blocked them, but we had too many service errors.”
With the rivalry match over, Oblad believes the Utes need to put this result behind them and look ahead to what’s next on their schedule.
“We just have to move on and know we win as a team, lose as a team, that’s what coach keeps saying,” Oblad said. “And go take this loss and work harder as a team, go get that next match and put the work in in practice.”
The Utes will jump into Pac-12 action with a four-game home stand that begins on Friday, Sept. 22.