Swept away

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 9 U volleyball team (20-2, 11-0 MWC) extended its consecutive win streak to 18 Friday night, continuously staving off runs from rival BYU (19-3, 9-2 MWC) to pick up the 3-0 victory on Crimson Court.

Utah showed a tremendous amount of poise, especially in the third game, to persevere over the team’s rivals and a raucous crowd of 1,100 people to pick up the win.

“What I’m most proud of is our composure,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “It was a big crowd, a vocal crowd, and we didn’t let the atmosphere get to us. It seemed like whenever they made a run, we squashed it, and that was huge.”

A lot of that composure came from sophomore Airial Salvo, who kept the Cougars reeling with a career-high six aces. When the Cougars were able to field a serve, the sophomore usually fired it right back at them, as she also led the Utes with a team-high 14 kills.

“We were all pretty freakin’ pumped for this game,” Salvo said. “We knew it was going to be an intense atmosphere, but I thought we handled it really well. We were all just so excited, and I love playing here.”

Defensively, the No. 1 blocker in the nation, Emillie Toone, proved her valor once again as she led the Utes with eight blocks.

BYU hung with Utah early in the first game and, with a Lindsy Hartsock kill, tied the game at six. Not to be outdone in front of the home crowd, the Utes went on an 11-1 tear behind the right hand of Salvo. The outside-hitter kept the Cougar defense off balance with a multitude of serves, and Utah took a 17-7 lead. That lead expanded to 29-16, but the Utes couldn’t find the game-winning point. BYU kept Utah fans on their feet as the Cougars rattled off an 8-0 run of their own before committing a serving error to lose the game (30-24).

Game two was kept close early with multiple lead changes and strong outside play, but the Utes were able to open up a two-point lead on a pair of Lori Baird blocks (6-4). BYU fought its way back with a pair of Erica Lott kills to take a two-point lead (11-9) before Toone made her presence felt. The junior middle-blocker buoyed the Utes on an eight-point run to open up a 17-11 lead. Utah maintained that six-point lead until late in the game, when the Cougars clawed their way back into the game once again, closing the gap to three 27-24. But the Utes proved to be too much for their adversary once again, ending the game on a Lori Baird slide shot to win 30-26.

The third frame proved to be the biggest challenge of the night for the Utes. The home team used a plethora of serves from Salvo to jump out to a 5-1 lead. They continued to build on that lead, owning a 12-6 cushion at one point before the Cougars mounted a comeback. BYU engineered an 11-1 run behind the strength of four Chelsea Goodman kills to take its largest lead of the match (22-18). Utah managed to fight its way back to tie the game at 23, then took a one-point lead when Whitney Webb fired a kill into the Cougar back row. The Utes expanded that lead to three on a Kate Robison kill (28-25) and never looked back, winning 30-27.

Aiding Salvo on the offensive side of the net was junior Whitney Webb. The outside-hitter tallied 13 kills on .414 hitting in the winning effort.

Connie Dangerfield led the Utah defense from the back row, picking up 15 digs from her libero position. The junior agreed that the Utes’ composure was the key to victory.

“BYU pushed really hard in that third game,” Dangerfield said. “We knew as a team that they weren’t going to go down in three. They pushed our back against a wall, but as a team, we stayed composed and fought our way back to win.”

Lennie Mahler

Connie Dangerfield dives to save the ball in Friday’s sold-out home match against BYU. The Utes shut out their rivals in three games to increase their winning streak to 18.