Rams come out on top in tough conference match

By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

On the road and facing its toughest conference competitor to date, the Utah volleyball team couldn’t muster enough offense to stay in the match.

The Colorado State Rams swept the Utes (25-14, 25-13, 25-15), despite U setter Abby Simmons earning her fourth career double-double.

“I thought we competed at times,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “But for the most part, (Colorado) dominated or had control of the match. We weren’t ever able to get into the match. We just didn’t get enough kills. We did a lot of good things, but we just didn’t have enough offense at the end of the match.”

After falling behind by seven early in the first set, the Utes were unable to gain momentum. Colorado State used a strong offensive attack, led by Danielle Minch’s nine kills, to stifle the Utes and take the set in a blowout.

“CSU started off on fire,” Launiere said. “We didn’t have an answer for Danielle Minch. She had a lot of kills in the first set, so that got us in trouble early. I thought we were able to slow them down a little bit as the match went on, but we just weren’t able to get enough kills.”

Utah sprung to a brief lead in the second set, using kills by opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak, outside hitter Sarah Hibbert and middle blocker Danielle Killpack to gain a 6-5 edge. From there, the Rams took control. Utah was able to keep it close and was only down 12-9 before the Rams went on a 10-2 streak to take a commanding lead. Utah was able to score just once more in the set as the Rams cruised to the win.

The third set was more of the same. Early on, the Utes used a team effort to match the Rams point for point. The Utes got kills from Killpack, Hibbert and outside hitters Cinthia Silva and Jennifer Lanting to tie the set at 12. The Rams responded by scoring 13 of the last 16 points to finish the Utes off.

“We just have to get back into the gym for practice and work hard,” Launiere said. “We’re still trying to figure this out. We’re still playing pretty good volleyball and the attitude (of the team) is still good, so we just have to take a loss and learn from it.”

The Utes struggled to get kills offensively, as Hibbert led the team with just five, though five Utes had at least four kills. Colorado State outhit Utah .382 to .078.

The Rams, who are undefeated in conference play, are now two games ahead of the 6-2 Utes in the conference standings.

The Utes have lost two of their past three conference matches, after establishing a 19-game conference winning streak that was snapped last week by a four-set loss to New Mexico.

Wedged between the losses, Utah notched a come-from-behind win against Wyoming on Thursday, beating the Cowboys in five sets.

In the pivotal fourth set and trailing 2-1, the Utes went back and forth with the Cowboys throughout the set. Tied at 22, Wyoming scored consecutive points to put it within a single score of winning the set and the match. A kill by Silva, followed by a block by Silva and Killpack tied the match, but Wyoming scored the next point to once again gain a match-point situation. Utah responded with a kill by Silva to again tie it, and Bartkowiak and Killpack followed with consecutive kills to force a fifth set.

The Utes started with a 5-1 run in the fifth, and they built a 14-7 late lead. Wyoming scored the next six points to come within one, but a kill by Silva closed out the match.

Silva finished the match with 16 kills and six blocks, and Bartkowiak ended with her ninth double-double of the season. Killpack contributed a career-high 11 blocks to go along with nine kills.

Utah will continue its three-match road swing when it travels to Provo to take on BYU in a Deseret First Duel match at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Utes defeated the Cougars earlier this season in a five-set match at Crimson Court.

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Thien Sok/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Karolina Bartkowiak hits the ball during the game Oct. 8.