Turner Leads U Comeback With Her Clutch Play

It may have been a bloody nose from BYU senior middle blocker Nina Puikkonen that gave the 18th-ranked Utah volleyball team a shot to climb back into Friday’s match with the 13th-ranked Cougars, but it was Ute sophomore middle blocker Kim Turner that turned the opportunity into victory.

When Puikkonen went out with a nosebleed?the Cougars leading two games to one, and ahead in the fourth by a commanding 20-13 margin?Turner came alive, launching 8 of her team-high 18 kills in game four, scoring three of the team’s last five points in that game?not to mention the match-winner in game five?and hitting for a .333 attack percentage.

Where just moments earlier, BYU was poised to hand Utah its first loss of the year at Crimson Court, thanks to Turner, the Utes instead escaped with a 30-25, 25-30, 30-32, 30-26, 15-12 victory.

“For a while it was all so tense, but then we just started going after it, trying not to be on the defensive,” Turner said. “I just tried to make a difference any way I could.”

Utah coach Beth Launiere said that Turner made the ultimate difference.

Up to that point, Ute setters Jackie Morrill and Kelsie Kartchner had orchestrated the team’s offensive attack around setting up players on the wings. And while outside hitters Sylva Strzinkov and Alisa Geddes finished with 13 and 10 kills, respectively, they also hit only .186 and .000 for the match.

Consequently, once the 6 foot-3-inch Puikkonen went out, Launiere ordered the setters to send the ball to the middle of the court, and Turner’s timely, powerful hitting gave Utah all the momentum, as it went on to win 10 of 13 points to tie it at 23, and seven of the final 10 points to send the match into a fifth-game tie-breaker.

“We needed to get the ball to the middle,” Launiere said. “Kim was up and ready?we just needed to get the ball to her.”

BYU coach Elaine Michaelis agreed that once Turner came alive, it was a completely different contest.

“What happened was they got their passes going, and their middle attack was then incredibly difficult to defend,” Michaelis said.

As a result of Turner’s heroics, Utah avoided getting swept by BYU this year and instead handed the Cougars their first two-match losing streak since September of 2000.

Consequently, with Utah now at 13-4 overall, BYU at 12-4 overall, and both teams tied for second in the conference at 6-2 in MWC matches?two games behind undefeated and eighth-ranked Colorado State?the Utes are suddenly back in contention for the league title.

“It’s huge?this win puts us right there in a fight for the Mountain West Conference championship,” Turner said.

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