Utes rally to buck Cowgirls

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Webster defines perseverance as “steady or continued action or belief despite difficulties or setbacks.” The No. 12 U volleyball team fit that description to a T last weekend, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to tally a come-from-behind win over Wyoming.

The five-game thriller extends Utah’s winning streak to a school-record 15 consecutive matches and has the Utes at the top of the Mountain West with a perfect 8-0 conference record.

“Wyoming played a great match against us tonight,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “We had to lay it on the line and give it all we had to get the win. I’m proud of how the team responded to being down two games.”

The Utes did respond, especially on defense, where they recorded 27 total team blocks and an eye-popping 108 digs. Middle-blocker Emillie Toone led the defense at the net with a season-high 14 blocks, while Lori Baird pitched in 13 rejections of her own. Baird and Toone were two of five Utah players to tally double-doubles on the evening.

Outside-hitter Kate Robison led the way on offense, tallying 17 kills to go along with her 18 digs. Airial Salvo countered Robison’s attack from the other side, picking up 14 kills and 19 digs.

Whitney Webb led the team from the back row, netting 26 digs to pace the Utes. The junior outside-hitter also hammered down 16 kills in the winning effort and was one block away from recording the coveted triple-double.

Utah battled its way through the first game, trading leads and kills before Wyoming put together an 8-2 run to open up a six-point lead (22-16). Utah closed the gap later in the contest with a six-point run of its own before the Cowgirls pulled away, winning 30-27.

Wyoming held a three-point advantage early in the second game (8-5) before the Utes found their heads, tying the game at nine on a Toone kill. The Cowgirls fought back with some runs, but the Utes never allowed them too much breathing room and tied the game once again at 26. Aided by a pair of Utah hitting errors, the Cowgirls pulled away from there, winning 30-28.

The Utes made a statement early in the third game, jumping out to an 11-2 lead behind a slew of Kate Robison kills. They expanded that lead to 14 later in the game on one of three Connie Dangerfield aces, taking a 23-9 lead. Utah had no trouble closing the game from there, winning 30-20 on a Robison kill.

The Cowgirls bounced back early in game four, jumping out to an 8-4 lead. The Utes responded, though, showing their perseverance once again as they tied the game at 13, then took a four-point lead later in the game, 20-16. Utah protected that four-point lead for the rest of the bout and sealed the game-officially tying the match at two games apiece-on yet another Robison kill.

The fifth and final game of the day saw the Utes jump out to a 6-1 lead behind strong defense, blocking four balls early. Wyoming worked its way back into the contest with a solid offensive attack, closing the gap to 8-7 before the Utes ran away with the match, scoring seven of the last nine points to win the game 15-9.

“This was our first five-game match of the year, and to come back and win it on the road is pretty special,” Launiere said. “Tonight’s win was a great team effort. It wasn’t just one person that stepped up. Everyone on the team was responsible for the victory.”

The Utah offense struggled to find a rhythm throughout the contest, hitting a season-low .189 in the match. But the defense picked up the slack, holding the Cowgirls to a mere .155.

“Our offense was sluggish tonight so we had to step up our defense, and we did that. Our defense helped us find a way to win tonight,” Launiere said.

The Utes’ come-from-behind victory preserves the win streak that began on Sept. 2 when they lost to then-No. 14 USC, 3-1. Utah will continue on its quest to the Mountain West championship this week when the team hosts conference foes San Diego State and UNLV at Crimson Court.