Ute streak comes to an end against Oregon

By James Boehly, Staff Writer

The streak is over.

After eight straight wins, the Utes fell to No. 7 Oregon in the team’s first loss in more than a month. The Utes’ last loss came against Wyoming on Sept. 20.

Although the Utes fought hard early on, they couldn’t maintain their success down the stretch as the Ducks won 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-15, 25-22).

“We were up and down tonight,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “We played a solid match against a Top 10 team.”

This is the first time the teams have faced each other since 1996 when the Utes won 3-0 at the Utah Classic. This loss ties the overall record between the schools at 4-4.

Although the Ute offense started off well, it wasn’t enough to beat Oregon in the long run. In the four sets, the Utes only had a .252 hitting average and hit below .200 in two of those games.

The best player for the Utes was Lori Baird. She led the Utes in both her hitting percentage and number of kills with .448 and 15, respectively.

The other top performer for the Utes was Karolina Bartkowiak. She was the only other player for the Utes to have a hitting average above .250. Bartkowiak also recorded eight kills on the night.

“We can take a lot of positive things from this match, but we are still not satisfied,” Launiere said. “It’ll serve as good motivation for us when we get back in the gym.”

Oregon’s offense was running on all cylinders. The Ducks dropped only one game and had a .466 hitting average in their three victories.

While the Utes managed to split with Oregon after two games, they didn’t have an answer for Oregon’s Neticia Enesi, who had a .714 hitting average and led the team in kills with 18.

After squaring the match at one game apiece with a 26-24 win in the second set, the Utes took the lead just once, early in the fourth and deciding set. Utah, who had been outblocking teams in convincing fashion during the course of the winning streak had just six to Oregon’s 19 blocks.

With the non-conference schedule over, the Utes have seven games remaining to improve their standing in the Mountain West Conference.

The Utes sit at No. 2 in the MWC standings, right where they were predicted to finish in the preseason polls. The Utes would like nothing more than to go beyond expectations.

“That’s our focus,” Launiere said. “Trying to win the conference championship is our number one priority.”

The first stop on the road to a MWC title will be against New Mexico on Thursday. The Utes have already defeated the Lobos once this season and will be playing this matchup in Salt Lake City.

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