Volleyball hopes to get rivalry win

By Bubba Brown , Staff Reporter

The Utah volleyball team finds itself down two games in the Mountain West Conference standing and is likely in need of a strong sprint to the finish to have hopes of catching Colorado State.

To do that, the Utes are going to have to get by BYU and its fans in Provo tonight.

“It’s a great volleyball venue,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “Their fans always come out for this match. It’s going to be a loud volleyball atmosphere.”

Last time out, the Utes were swept by Colorado State. Launiere said her team didn’t have enough offense to stay in the match, and the defense didn’t pick up the slack. Going into the match with the Cougars, the Utes will have had time to improve deficiencies in those areas.

“We’ve only had one other week where we were able to practice for the full week,” Launiere said. “We’re using that time to focus on all our skills. We would like to focus on both offense and defense.”

If the last time these two squads met is an indicator of what to expect in tonight’s match, it should be a battle to the end. Utah got the better of BYU in front of a record number of fans at Crimson Court in a five-set thriller that saw two sets go well past the usual 25 points needed to win. Opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak slammed a career-high 22 kills and 17 digs in the win, which was Launiere’s 400th as head coach of the Utes. Outside hitters Cinthia Silva and Sarah Hibbert each collected 14 kills in the victory.

The Utes now want to complete the season sweep over the Cougars, which would be their second sweep of the Cougars in two years.

“We want to beat them at their place,” said middle blocker Danielle Killpack. “We’re going to have to play as a team, and hopefully if we do that, we can take it to them.”

In order to come away with their second win over BYU, Utah will have to contain the Cougars’ main offensive weapon, Kayla Walker. Walker had 19 kills and 11 digs in the first match against the Utes. On the year, she’s averaging 4.16 kills per set, which accounts for more than one-third of the Cougars’ average kills.

Defensively, the Cougars have several key players. Nicole Warner is averaging 1.27 blocks and .42 digs per set. Kiana Rogers has accumulated just under a block per set in addition to 2.15 digs per set, and Christina Measom is averaging 1.01 blocks per set.

The Cougars enter the match with a 10-9 overall record, including a 5-3 mark in Mountain West Conference play. They began conference play with a 4-1 record, the only loss coming courtesy of the Utes, but have since dropped two of their past three matches. They were swept at home by TCU and lost in straight sets at Colorado State before picking up a five-set win at Wyoming.

The match will count in the Deseret First Duel standings. BYU leads the duel 6-3 so far this season after two events. With a win, Utah can tie the standings at six points apiece.

The Utes will be back at Crimson Court for their next match to take on UNLV on Oct. 31 before heading back onto the road for matches at New Mexico and TCU.

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Mike Mangum/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Sarah Hibbert goes up for a kill in the Utes? first game against BYU earlier this year. The first game went five sets, with Utah winning.