Team gives Launiere 400th win

By By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

The Utah volleyball team defeated rival BYU in a five-set thriller in front of a record-breaking Crimson Court crowd to give Beth Launiere her 400th victory as Utah’s head coach.

Junior opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak set a new career high with 22 kills, as the Utes were able to stave off BYU’s attack.

The Utes were on the brink of defeat several times in the match but fought back to keep their conference win streak alive.

Trailing BYU 2-1, Utah was ahead 24-20 in the fourth set, but the Cougars scored five straight points to come within one point of winning. With the crowd of 1,747 on their feet, Sarah Hibbert connected on a kill to tie the match at 25. The Utes took the advantage on the next point with a block by Bartkowiak and sophomore middle blocker Danielle Killpack. The Cougars scored the next two points to once again put Utah’s back against the wall, but Bartkowiak responded with a kill to tie the score. After falling behind again, back-to-back kills by senior outside hitter Cinthia Silva put the Utes ahead, and an attack error by BYU gave the Utes the set.

Bartkowiak said the Utes kept their composure late in the set and were not thinking about the possibility of losing.

“We all knew what could happen, but you just can’t think about it,” Bartkowiak said.

Utah was able to control the fifth set, never letting the Cougars get closer than two points after taking a 5-3 lead. Bartkowiak had four kills in the final game to help give Utah the shortened set 15-10.

Launiere heaped praise on Bartkowiak after the match.

“I have to say that Bartkowiak was unbelievable tonight,” she said. “She was the go-to player, and she came through time after time.”

Bartkowiak and BYU’s Kayla Walker combined for a matchup of preseason all-conference players. Both players lived up to the billing, but Bartkowiak edged Walker, 22 kills to 19.

The Cougars took the lead early on, winning the mostly lopsided first set 25-19. Utah scored the first three points of the second set and never let BYU back in. Bartkowiak had four kills and a block, and Silva collected three blocks and a kill to lead the Utes to the 25-19 win.

The third set was closely contested, but BYU went on a late 4-1 run to take a 24-21 lead. A kill by senior middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg, a service ace by sophomore libero Corinne Crump and an attack error by BYU tied the match at 24. The Cougars scored the next point, but Bartkowiak delivered back-to-back kills to give Utah the lead. However,
BYU was able to score the next three points to take the set 29-27.

Launiere said BYU battled for the whole match.

“It was just a hard-fought match,” she said. “BYU never let us get many runs, and if we did, they caught up every time. There were so many big points. Game three was a tough one to lose.”

BYU entered the match as the conference’s leading blockers, and they collected 21.5 blocks in the match, though the Utes were able to come up with 15.5 blocks of their own.
Utah improved to 9-5 overall, 3-0 in conference play, and will travel to UNLV to take on the Rebels on Thursday.

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Mike Mangum/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Utah volleyball players rush onto the court after the team?s five-set win over BYU on Saturday. It was the 400th career win for head coach Beth Launiere.