Utes fall further behind in race for conference title

By Bubba Brown , Staff Writer

In dire need of a win and with conference title hopes fading, the Utah volleyball team was unable to muster a victory on the road against TCU.

The four-set (21-25, 26-24, 20-25, 7-25) loss dropped the Utes to three and a half games behind conference leader Colorado State, with just four conference matches to play.

“We battled,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “I thought we played pretty well. We battled hard to get game two but let game four slip away from us. They are a good defensive team, and once again, we just didn’t come up with enough kills.”

The opening minutes of the first set were closely contested. However, the Horned Frogs were able to take a lead at 5-4, which expanded to 10-6. TCU played the rest of the set with the lead, which the Utes were unable to narrow to less than two, and the Horned Frogs closed the set out at 25-21.

The second set was tight throughout, with neither team taking more than a two-point lead until, with the score tied at 15, the Utes got two kills by opposite hitter Karolina Bartkowiak, a kill each by middle blocker Danielle Killpack and outside hitter Sarah Hibbert and a service ace by libero Keisha Fisher to take a 20-15 advantage.

However, the Utes were unable to put the Horned Frogs away easily, as TCU scored six of the next seven points to tie it at 21. A kill by outside hitter Jennifer Lanting and a block by Lanting and Killpack gave the Utes a 23-21 lead, but the Horned Frogs came back to tie the game at 24. Utah got consecutive kills by their seniors, middle blocker Chelsey Sandberg and outside hitter Cinthia Silva, to win the set.

The set-winning kill was part of a big performance for Silva, who had her third consecutive double-digit kill performance with a team-high 13.

“She is such a tremendous athlete,” Launiere said of Silva. “She is able to get high and hits hard. She’s been focused the last couple of weeks.”

The Horned Frogs took a lead early in the third set that they wouldn’t relinquish. The lead hovered from two to five points through most of the set, and the Utes were unable to get enough offense to make a comeback, as TCU cruised to a 25-20 win.

By the fourth set, it was all TCU. With the score tied at five, the Horned Frogs scored 20 of the next 22 points, a streak that included a 12-0 run, en route to the match-clinching 25-7 win.

Two Utes collected double-doubles. Bartkowiak had her 10th double-double of the season with 11 kills and 10 digs, and setter Stephanie Neeley had her second double-double of the season with 22 assists and 10 digs.

Lanting had a career-high five blocks.

The volleyball team will return to Crimson Court on Thursday, where it will face Colorado State. The match is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised live on The Mtn.

[email protected]