Air Force Recap

By By Bubba Brown

By Bubba Brown

The Ute Volleyball team used big performances from their two seniors to get back into the win column by defeating Air Force 3-1 on Thursday night to open conference play.

Chelsey Sandberg smashed a career-high 12 kills to power the Ute offense, and Cinthia Silva contributed with 10 digs, seven kills and four blocks to give Utah their 15th straight conference win, dating back to last season.

After the game coach Beth Launiere said the Utes are starting to feel the senior leadership that Sandberg brings, and focused on Silvia’s impact.

“I was glad Cinthia had such a good performance tonight,” Launiere said. “She’s just been doing so many things for us. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but she’s touching so many balls for us and has such a responsibility on our team. I’m glad she was able to have success tonight.”

Air Force started the match with a 3-0 run in the first set, but relinquished the lead when Utah scored the next four points. The set went back-and-forth until with the score tied at 13, the Utes took four consecutive points with the help of a kill by Sandberg and service ace by Silvia. Air Force climbed back within two at 18-16, but Utah held off the Falcons to take the set 25-20.

The Utes out-blocked the Falcons 2-1 in the set, a trend that continued throughout the match.

“We’re getting better at blocking,”Launiere said. “It was nice to be able to block some balls so we’re getting better after each game.”

Utah jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set, and eventually expanded the advantage to 13-7. The Utes used two kills apiece from Sarah Hibbert and Jennifer Lanting to maintain the lead. The Falcons closed the gap to three at 20-17, but Sandberg responded with a kill, followed by a service ace by Abby Simmons to widen the lead. Utah would hang on to win the set 25-20.

Air Force took a 5-1 lead to begin the third set, before Utah rattled off seven consecutive points, which was highlighted by two aces from Sandberg. The Falcons tied the set at 11 before blocks from Danielle Killpack and Sandberg propelled the Utes to a 15-11 edge. A 7-3 run by Air Force tied the set at 18, which they were able to parlay into a set win 25-23.

In the fourth set, the Falcons took a 3-0 edge and led until the Utes tied the score at nine. Utah took five of the next six points to take a 14-10 lead. The Utes controlled the match the rest of the way, taking the set 25-14.

Launiere spoke about her team responding to their three-game losing streak with the victory over Air Force.

“Every win is a good win,” she said. “It feels good. The thing I like about this team is they respond.”

Preseason all-conference selection Karolina Bartkowiak sat out the third set due to injury, but came back for the fourth set and collected a kill. Launiere said her status for Saturday’s match against San Diego State is unknown. The Utes will square-off against the Aztecs on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Crimson Court.

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Thien Sok