Goodbye perfection: Volleyball hands BYU its first loss of the season

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Pardon the BYU Cougars if they just start taking a forfeit in order to save on gas mileage to Crimson Court.

For its seventh-consecutive Salt Lake City win over BYU, the U volleyball team swept the Cougars in three games Friday night, 30-26, 30-28 and 30-23.

The Cougars entered the match No. 12 in the nation and had a perfect 20-0 record, but that all came to a screeching halt when they went up against a Ute team (17-6, 9-3 MWC) that was much more aggressive than it was in a loss to BYU a month ago in Provo.

“Our mindset was to be on the offensive,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “The last time we played them, we were on the defensive all night.”

For much of the first two games, thanks to Cougar mistakes, the Utes didn’t have to play much offense or defense. BYU committed 11 service errors in the pivotal two games, often at times that killed rallies or prolonged a Utah hot streak.

“I don’t think you can go on the road and miss as many serves as we did,” first-year Cougar coach Jason Watson said.

The errors were magnified thanks to the raucous atmosphere BYU had to contend with. Crimson Court was packed to the gills with an all-time record 1,591 fans, and ticket takers still had to turn away more than 200 people at the door.

“It was a great environment,” Watson said. “Certainly a difficult environment to play in, and we didn’t handle that very well at all.”

The Cougars also had a hard time handling the Utes’ blocking scheme, which had been modified to neutralize BYU’s big attackers.

The onus was put on stopping Lindsy Hartsock, who entered the match with a nation-leading .474 hitting percentage.

On Friday, Hartsock looked like just another ordinary player as she came away with six kills on a paltry .150 hitting percentage.

On the other side of the net, the Utes had no such hitting trouble.

Freshman Airial Salvo scored a team-high of 15 kills while hitting .371 on the night.

Salvo added nine digs and 2.5 blocks, all while playing in the biggest match of her young collegiate career.

“It was intense,” Salvo said. “Our energy was so high.”

Also pitching in big contributions for the Utes were Shelly Sommerfeldt with 10 kills, Lori Baird and Whitney Webb, who each notched eight kills and 2.5 blocks.

Even though the Cougars went home losers for the first time this season, they still control their own destiny in the race for the MWC regular-season title.

They are two matches up on the second-place Utes with four to play.

But for the packed Crimson Court on Friday night, it wasn’t about championships or records; it was about the rivalry. And for the 11th time in 12 meetings, the Utes were on the victorious side.

Utah returns to the court Friday night at 7 p.m. when Wyoming visits Crimson Court.

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