Three for three

- Brent Uberty

Utah was in Nashville, Tenn. over the weekend for the Lipscomb Invitational, collecting three wins in three days. The Utes swept Eastern Tennessee State University and Georgia Tech before needing four sets to down the hometown Lipscomb Bison.
“I thought we got better as the weekend went on. We were struggling a little bit early on Friday night with our passing and ball control,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “As the tournament went on, our offensive numbers went consistently up and our ball control people did a nice job.”
The Utes came into Friday night on a roll, and they didn’t slow down against ETSU. Utah was up 23-18 in the first set when ETSU made a 5-0 run to tie it up at 23, but Utah kept their cool and grabbed the next two points to close out the set at 25-23. The second set was close midway through as Utah held a 16-13 lead. The Utes pulled away at the end, closing the set on a 9-3 run for a 25-16 victory. The sweep was completed by Eliza Katoa’s 10th kill of the match and the Utes winning 25-22.
“I think she’s proving that she can play at this level and, in fact, exceeding expectations,” said Launiere about Katoa. “I think she’s playing with a lot of maturity for a freshman.”
Chelsey Schofield-Olsen led the way in kills for the Utes with 11, and she had a double-double notching 10 digs as well. Schofield-Olsen wasn’t the only one with a double-double as junior setter Kendall Cygan had 20 assists and 10 digs. Utah registered a total of six team blocks and held ETSU to a .091 hitting percentage.
“Our block is always my favorite part of the game, but I thought our floor defense really stepped it up this weekend,” said Utah’s defensive leader Bailey Bateman.
In the Saturday morning match against Georgia Tech, the Utes got off to a slow start and a back-and-forth set ended up in extra points. In the end, Bateman got the set-ending kill for the Utes as they took the set 28-26. The Utes looked much more comfortable in the second set, ending it with a Lea Adolph ace, before rolling to a 25-18 victory in the third set to take the match.
The service game was much talked about for the Utes last week after a season-high 12 service errors. Utah was much improved this past weekend, only committing five errors against Georgia Tech.
The sweep over Georgia Tech was the Utes’ seventh of the season and sixth in a row.
Schofield-Olsen and Katoa each had their second straight double digit kill game, recording 10 kills a piece. Setter Kalee Kirby had 10 digs to go with her team-high 25 assists.
The toughest match in the invitational for the Utes came against Lipscomb. The Bisons came into the game having received 35 points in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, which was good enough for a spot just outside the top 25. According to the coaches poll, Lipscomb is the toughest team the Utes have faced all season.
The Utes were excited to face a stronger opponent and came out battling. After a back and forth start, Utah went on a 10-2 run to open up a 20-12 lead and coasted to a 25-18 first set victory. The second set was close throughout, but in the end a late 5-0 run gave Utah a 25-17 win. The Utes went into the third set with a chance to sweep the invitational, but the Bisons had other plans. With the score tied at 14, Lipscomb scored seven straight points to gain some separation and eventually took the set 25-15.
Launiere wasn’t too worried about the 7-0 run, saying, “We just couldn’t get a kill.”
The Utes were able to finish off the Bisons in the fourth set 25-22 for their third win of the invitational.
Against Lipscomb, Utah was once again led by tournament MVP Schofield-Olsen, who finished with 11 kills. The senior finished the invitational with 32 kills and 24 digs in the three matches.
“Chelsey [Schofield-Olsen] is playing the best of her career right now by far,” Launiere said. “Offensively these are the best numbers she’s put up.”
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@BenJasarevic