Utah volleyball shares MWC title

The Ute spikers will have to be content with a share of the Mountain West Conference title. After steamrolling Wyoming Friday night, Colorado State came into Crimson Court and swept the U three games to zero. The Utes and Rams will share the regular-season conference championship, having gone 13-1 in MWC play.

Game scores for the CSU match were 30-26, 30-22, and 30-20.

“I don’t think it was our best match,” Ute coach Beth Launiere said. “But (CSU) had a lot to do with that.”

Early on, the match had all the makings of a dogfight. Each team went point for point until the Utes opened up a 9-6 lead. After a CSU timeout, the Rams got back into it, and tied the game at 13. It would continue to seesaw until CSU went on an 8-3 run at the end. A Utah timeout at 28-24 could not stop the bleeding, and CSU took game one 30-26.

The Utes appeared to bounce back early in game two. Colorado State aided them with several errors and the U jumped out to a 7-1 lead. Once again, the Rams would storm back to cut the deficit to 10-8. CSU kept pace with the Utes-until the U led by the score of 21-19.

That’s when the four time defending MWC champions kicked it into gear. Helped by sloppy Ute play, the Rams went on a whirlwind 12-1 run, silencing the home crowd and pulling out a convincing 30-22 second game victory.

“It’s a reverse of what happened when we played them last,” CSU coach Tom Hilbert said. “At home, we had a lot of unforced errors. Tonight they had a lot.”

The errors would continue in the third game, as Utah had a tough time setting up good hitting opportunities. Colorado State kept the ball away from Ute defensive specialist Connie Dangerfield, throwing Utah off of their normal game plan.

Another Ute run was quashed by CSU’s quick strike offense and the U’s errors, as the Rams cruised to a 30-20 game victory and a three-game sweep.

“We tried to throw them off tonight,” Hilbert said. “If we give them easy stuff, (Ute) Lyndsey Henderson will kill us.”

Although Henderson led the Utes with 10 kills, she, like the rest of the team, had a tough time getting a rhythm going. The Utes hit only .105, committing 27 errors on the attack.

Utah native Dre Downs had a big game for the Rams. The Northridge High product tallied 10 kills and a strong .500 hitting percentage.

Her coach was also impressed with her defense. “[Downs] had a great game. She was blocking everything out there,” Hilbert said. “She was our X factor tonight.”

On Friday night, the U dispatched the Cowgirls in a quick one hour and 14 minutes. Game scores were 30-16, 30-22, and 30-26.

MWC Player of the Week Kelsie Kartchner tallied a triple-double with 12 kills, 17 assists and 13 digs. Henderson led Utah with 14 kills.

The Utes may get another shot at CSU sooner rather than later. The MWC conference tournament will start Thursday in Fort Collins, Colo. Since Utah and CSU tied, their conference seedings will be decided by a coin flip.

The winner of the tournament will gain an automatic berth in December’s NCAA tournament.

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