When the University of Utah volleyball team called a timeout down 22-18 during set four against Purdue, Adora Anae screamed out to her teammates that they were still going dancing as they ran back on the court. During that timeout and all week long, they talked about having a certain state of mind.
“We talked a lot going into the match about being mentally tough and that they were going to throw a lot at us,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “I thought we did extremely good job of that and we did talk about that in timeout, a lot about who was going to be great competitors right now and who was going to be mentally strong.”
Nine points later, the Utes clinched the set and a 3-1 match victory over a pesky Purdue team. They are heading to the Sweet Sixteen, like Anae predicted, and it’s something the Utes haven’t done since 2008.
“This is certainly one of the best teams she [Launiere] has been fortunate to coach,” said Purdue head coach Dave Shondell. “They’re a likable team. They play hard. They compete. They’re well disciplined. They’re athletic, and they can do some different things. They were every bit as good as I was afraid they might be.”
Statistically speaking, Purdue performed well. They had a better scoring percentage then the Utes as they hit .356 percent compared to Utah’s .253 percent. They were also able to outblock the Utes, 13-3. However, Utah did what it needed to in order to walk away victorious.
“It was truly an earned win,” Launiere said. “We had to work hard for it. Statistically, Purdue put up some huge numbers, but I thought we absolutely got some things done and made some plays late in the fourth set that made the difference.”
Purdue didn’t go down without a fight after the Utes won the first two sets, 25-23 and 25-19. The Boilermakers came out with a big third set victory, 25-13, but after being down most of the fourth set, Utah won the frame by a score of 27-25.
“Lot’s of stuff goes through your head when you’re down 22-18 and 24-22,” Launiere said. “But just a week ago we were down 23-20 at Colorado and we came back and won that fourth set. I felt like we were pretty confident and I just thought it was great volleyball being played.”
All three Utah seniors had outstanding nights — even after Purdue made adjustments to try and stop them. Anae finished with 27 kills and two blocks, Carly Trueman registered 10 kills and Tawnee Luafalemana added 12 kills and one block.
“Internally, I was like ‘Oh, we’re winning this for sure,’” Anae said. “Because the way we walked off the court, the way we responded. We talked before and said, ‘Championship Mindset.’ We weren’t thinking elsewhere but forward. So I thought our team showed some mental toughness in that situation.”
Luafalemana knows that when her team plays together, anything is possible. The Utes will continue to rely on playing as one as they look to further their run in the NCAA tournament.
“We kept saying leave it on the court,” Luafalemana said. “Leave it on the court no matter if they got a really big kill. We brought it together every point and no matter what it was, we were together.”