UVU tournament gives volleyball its first loss

By By Bubba Brown and By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

The No. 17 Ute volleyball team hit its first speed bumps of the season as it dropped two matches against Utah Valley University and Washington State but bounced back to salvage a sharp win against Missouri in this weekend’s tournament at UVU.

Despite strong performances by outside hitters senior Cinthia Silva and sophomore Jennifer Lanting, Utah opened the Utah Valley Tournament on Friday night with a 3-1 loss to host UVU.

Utah, which was 4-0 on the season and riding a 13-match regular season unbeaten streak, dropped the first set 26-24 after a 9-1 stretch highlighted by two kills and two blocks by Chelsey Sandberg. The Utes took a 23-21 lead but came up short in the final points. They evened up the match by out-hitting Utah Valley .444 to .185 to easily take the second set 25-18. Utah Valley then took control the rest of the way, cruising in the third set, winning 25-14. They were out-hit by Utah Valley .441 to .188. The Wolverines wrapped up the match by taking the fourth set 25-18 to hand Utah its first loss. Silva and Lanting each finished with 10 kills on the match.

“I thought Utah Valley played very well,” said U head coach Beth Launiere. “They kept the pressure on us all night. They had a few lapses, but for the most part, they played well consistently. We didn’t; we were up and down. We out-hit them .314 to .175 in the first set, so it came to down to serving and passing.”

Saturday morning proved no kinder to the Utes, as they were swept at the hands of Washington State. Senior middle blocker Sandberg tallied a career-high 11 kills, but the Utes couldn’t stop the Cougars’ offense, which hit .478 for the match.

Launiere said she was pleased with the offense but lamented the Utes’ defensive effort.

“We came out with a more disciplined effort this morning,” Launiere said. “We’re doing good things, but we have to play better defense. When you hit .357, you should win, but I’m pleased that we played with more discipline and a little bit more composure. We’re learning and will keep improving after each match.”

Utah finally found success in Orem on Saturday afternoon with a strong team performance, when it defeated Missouri 3-1 on the strength of a career-high 17 kills by sophomore outside hitter Sarah Hibbert. The match started poorly for the Utes, as they lost the first set 25-21. Hibbert then smashed nine kills in the second set to propel Utah to the set win.

Hibbert, who hit .400 for the match, said she was unaware of the stats she posted.

“I had no idea,” Hibbert said. “Abby (Simmons) did a really nice job today setting for me and getting good opportunities.”

Although Launiere was not pleased with the defense in the first two matches of the tournament, she said she thought it helped lead to a victory over Missouri.

“I was very excited that we were able to get 10.5 blocks,” she said. “Our offense has been playing well and putting up pretty extraordinary numbers. When we get our block and defense going, we can have some good results.”

Utah’s next test comes tonight at Utah State. The Aggies are 2-2 and were picked to finish No. 3 in the WAC in the preseason Coaches’ Poll.

Lennie Mahler

Despite a solid effort by Jennifer Lanting, the Utah volleyball team lost 3-1 to UVU.