No. 9 Utes pick up pair of road wins

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Perfection is something many teams strive for but few actually to obtain. The No. 9 U volleyball team took another step toward its own conference perfection last weekend, beating both TCU and New Mexico on the road to improve its MWC record to 12-0.

The Utes fought their way through both matches in similar fashion, spreading out the offense and finishing off their opponents in four games.

“I was glad to see us get two big wins this weekend,” said U head coach Beth Launiere. “I was very pleased with our energy, focus and our execution over these last two matches.”

Utah started the weekend off in Fort Worth, Texas with a back-and-forth battle against TCU. The Horned Frogs jumped out to a 9-4 lead early in the first game thanks to three Lauren Otto kills. Utah fought its way back into the game behind a plethora of kills from Whitney Webb and tied the game at 17. TCU responded with a 5-2 run of its own, but the Utes again worked their way back into it behind the right hand of Webb. The junior tallied three kills late in the contest to lead the Utes to a narrow 30-28 victory.

The second game of the night was strikingly similar to the first, with the Horned Frogs jumping out to an early lead (7-4) and the Utes responding with solid outside play (Kathryn Lovell and Webb) to tie the game at 17. Utah continued its superb play through the latter half of the game to stymie its opponents, 30-27.

The Horned Frogs answered back in the third game, utilizing a multitude of Ute hitting errors to take an 18-13 lead. From there, TCU had no trouble distancing itself from the Utes, ultimately winning 30-18.

Not wanting to give the home crowd too much to cheer about, the Utes opened up the fourth game with strong outside play to take a 6-1 lead. It only got worse as the game went on and the Utes closed out the match on an 8-1 run, winning 30-21.

Webb led the U attack on the night, recording 19 kills on .484 hitting. The junior also contributed on defense, tallying eight digs and four total blocks. Countering Webb’s attack was outside-hitter Airial Salvo, who snagged 15 kills to go along with nine digs.

“TCU came out fired up to play, and it played well,” Launiere said. “It never gave up and played strong all night. But I thought both teams played well tonight. There are a lot of different ways to win a volleyball match, and we found one of them this evening.”

The Utes continued their conference dominance the following night in Albuquerque, beating New Mexico in four games to extend their consecutive-win streak to 20.

New Mexico fell behind early in the first game (11-3) and was never able to recover, losing the first game 30-17.

Utah opened up another large lead in the second game behind multiple kills from Lovell and never gave the Lobos a chance to get back into the game, winning by that same 30-17 score.

The Lobos bounced back in the third game with a strong offensive attack and took their first lead of the game on a Sarah Kwasigroch ace (21-20). From there, the Lobos staved off the Ute offense and closed the game on an attacking error, winning 33-31.

Utah came back in the fourth game with a strong dose of Airial Salvo. The sophomore picked up eight kills in the final frame to lead the U to victory, 30-19.

Salvo was one of four Utes to top the 10-kill plateau as she led the team with 20. Lori Baird recorded 13 kills and nearly had a double-double with a match-high nine blocks. Lovell and Webb also had solid matches, scoring 11 and 10 kills, respectively.

“It was one of our best offensive matches of the year, and we also held New Mexico to less than 100 points,” Launiere said. “We played a good volleyball match, except for a small lapse in game three.”

The Utes hope to keep their flawless conference record unscathed this Thursday when they play their final home game of the year against the Wyoming Cowgirls.

Lennie Mahler

Utah’s Lori Baird reaches for a kill during the Utes’ three-game sweep over BYU last week.