Volleyball to Battle With BYU

If momentum were an exact determinant of how a specific match will turn out, then tonight’s volleyball match would be a laugher.

However, a heated rivalry such as the one between BYU and Utah does not fall into such a category. The records are thrown out the window, and both teams equally anticipate beating down the hated opposing squad.

The University of Utah volleyball team is on fire and has dominated its last four matches in 12 straight games, becoming virtually unstoppable at home. The 18th-ranked Utes’ record stands at a solid 12-4 and 5-2 in conference play.

Though Utah coach Beth Launiere adds a caveat, she is pleased with her team’s play.

?I think that some of it has to do with being on Crimson Court, but we are just completely clicking right now, and the fact that we are home is just a coincidence,” she said. “We played this well in Wyoming as well.?

Meanwhile, No. 13-ranked BYU is not playing at the level the Cougars are expected to be at. They beat San Diego State in four very close games. Their home winning streak of 20 matches was broken in three games by in-state rival Utah State on Tuesday. BYU?s record fell to 12-3 overall, though the Cougs are still 6-1 in conference play

After the match against Utah State, BYU coach Elaine Michaelis knew her team was not playing as well as it could.

“We need to get ourselves playing at the level we normally play,? Michaelis said. ?We haven?t really been there in the last couple weeks.”

Although BYU is not playing up to its usual level, the Cougars still have completely owned the Utes in the past, and have defeated them at Crimson Court in years past.

There is a major disparity in the all-time series record, as BYU has dominated with a mark of 60-7 against the Utes, including 19-6 on Crimson Court.

On Sept. 20, the Cougars downed the Utes in three games in Provo, though the Utes blame themselves as much for losing the match as much as they credit BYU with the win, as they committed 13 service errors in three games, and did not give themselves a chance to win the match.

?We?ve fixed the problem with service errors, and that was a major reason we lost down in Provo,? Launiere said.

Since then, Utah has had outstanding play from all its starters, but specifically from Sylva Strzinkov, McKelle Stilson, Adrianne Bradley?Drake and Alisa Geddes.

Katrena Ellett has come off the bench and played very well, providing some much-needed depth for the Utes .

The added experience of Jackie Morrill in the setting department (rather than using freshmen Kelsie Kartchner and Tracy Neumeier) has also bolstered the team’s confidence.

?[Morrill] gives us experience and can help us a lot against BYU,? Launiere said.

There still is an amazing amount of talent at BYU, with one All-American and one player who received recognition for National Player of the Week.

Nina Puikkonen and Sunny Mahe lead the team in scoring, and combined for 21 kills in the last match against Utah.

Puikkonen has been bothered by a sprained finger but should be in top condition for tonight’s match.

Her sister, Karina Puikkonen, dominated the Utes in Provo, with 8 kills, a .667 killing percentage, 35 assists and 7 digs .

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