Utah Volleyball defeats TCU 3-1

After a night of evenly-matched volleyball that included three overtime sets, Utah defeated TCU 3-1 (30-32, 27-25, 27-25, 25-18).

The win gave Utah its 19th consecutive conference win, tying a school record, in addition to its sixth straight win overall.

After the match, coach Beth Launiere was relieved the Utes were able to avoid a tight fourth set, which proved the be the deciding game.

“It was nice to break away in game four,” Launiere said. “I’m tired of climactic.”

Neither team was able to pull away in the first game, as the largest lead for either squad was three, which is the deficit the Utes faced on the verge of losing the set. Down 24-21, kills by middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg and opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak combined with a TCU error evened the set. Three times Utah tied the set after TCU took the advantage, until the Utes took a 28-27 lead on a block by middle blocker Danielle Killpack. However, the Utes were unable to finish off the Horned Frogs, who scored four of the last five points to win the set.

“I thought in the first game we made a lot of unforced errors,” Launiere said.

The second set was also tight, although Utah lunged to a four point lead, 12-8, which tied for the largest lead for either team until the fourth game. The teams traded points until TCU scored three consecutive times to take their first lead of the match 23-22. Utah regained the lead with a TCU error and a kill by outside hitter Cinthia Sliva, but TCU used consecutive scores to put the Utes within a point of a 2-0 deficit. Utah responded with three points- a service error by TCU and kills by Sandberg and outside hitter Sarah Hibbert- to win the set.

“TCU is a phenomenal team,” said Killpack, who posted a career-high 17 kills and a team-high five blocks. “They had a great defense. We earned every point.”

The Utes darted out to a 9-5 lead in the third set, but quickly found themselves down four points at 16-12, a lead the Horned Frogs held onto until late in the set. Once again a point away from losing a set, Utah got a kill from Bartkowiak and forced a TCU error to tie it at 24. TCU scored the next point, but two kills by Killpack and a kill by Silvia won the set for the Utes.

Killpack spoke after the match about her opportunity to score crucial points late in the set.

“TCU was really blocking (Bartkowiak), so it really opened up for everyone else,” she said.

After three close sets, the fourth set opened up. Utah took an advantage early in the set, and preserved it throughout the rest of the match. Leading 17-12, Utah allowed TCU to score three straight times to tighten it 17-15, but the Horned Frogs would score only once more, as the Utes grabbed the set and the match.

“The good news is that we know we can battle and find ways to win,” Launiere said. “That’s a good thing to have.”

Bartkowiak, Silvia and setter Abby Simmons all enjoyed double-double performances, while libero Keisha Fisher collected a season-high 27 digs.

Utah next test is New Mexico on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Crimson Court.

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