U volleyball splits two-game road trip

The U volleyball team expected its weekend road trip to be a tough one, and the Utes got exactly what they expected from Wyoming and No. 18 Colorado State.

The Utes split their weekend set, toppling the Cowgirls in a five- game thriller Saturday night before falling to the first-place Rams Sunday afternoon in Fort Collins.

Following Sunday’s loss, the Utes (13-7, 7-2 MWC) still remain in the hunt for the conference crown, but it’s going to take a lot of help from Colorado State, which is a perfect 9-0 during the conference season.

The Utes got their road trip off to a good start Saturday with their victory over Wyoming.

Behind all-conference senior Kim Turner, who set a new career-high with 23 kills, the Utes withstood losses in games two and three to come back and tie the match up at four games apiece. In the fifth and deciding game of the night, the Utes dominated the Cowgirls 15-6.

“Any win at Wyoming is a good win,” coach Beth Launiere said. “Wyoming played a great match. We showed a lot of heart to pull the win out.”

In addition to her 23 kills, Turner hit for .436 to continue her absolutely torrid play of late.

Sophomore Shelly Sommerfeldt committed an uncharacteristic 13 attack errors, but made up for it with 14 kills.

Junior Kelsie Kartchner, the Utes’ former starting setter who has been seeing time at outside hitter lately, took advantage of the positional change, finishing with 12 kills, while hitting .370.

Setter Tracy Neumeier dished out a career-high 61 assists to pace the U offense.

Sunday’s meeting with the Rams, seen live on College Sports Television, was the Utes’ most pivotal of the season, and they came up a bit short, snapping their winning streak at six.

Utah outplayed the Rams in several phases of the game, outhitting them .214 to .160 and outblocking them 18-12. The Utes got a huge contribution from redshirt freshman Amie Toone, who had a career-best 10 blocks.

“What a great match for Amie as a role player for us,” Launiere said. “She was incredible.”

Sommerfeldt had another strong outing, leading the team with 18 kills and a .385 hitting percentage, while senior libero Jackie Morrill added 19 digs.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

The Rams just slipped past the Utes in both of the first two games, including a 31-29 game two victory.

Looking for a spark, Launiere replaced Neumeier with Kartchner, who finished the night with 30 assists, as well as three kills.

“Tracy struggled this weekend,” Launiere said. “It was the first time in eight matches that she has. Kelsie did a great job of coming in and running the offense after not having played that position for some time.”

Kartchner led the Utes to a 30-22 game three win that gave them a little bit of momentum, but Utah lost yet another 31-29 nailbiter in the fourth game to drop its seventh match of the season.

Still, despite falling two games behind the Rams in the title race, Launiere wasn’t entirely disappointed with the way the evening went.

“I can’t be upset with the way we played. We played well against a great team at their place,” Launiere said. “We’re going to build from this for the stretch run.”

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