Utes unable to hold back Cougars, lose first season match 3-0

S-Volleyball

By sweeping eight of their first 10 opponents, including their most recent sweep of Utah State on Wednesday, the Utes strolled into Provo full of confidence. Utah had dropped three sets in its first 10 games combined, but on Friday night, the Utes dropped three straight sets to rival BYU, losing their first match of the season, 3-0.
Utah started the match with a Chelsey Schofield-Olsen kill, who came into Friday night with six straight games of double digit kills. The Cougars responded quickly, however, with a 5-0 run to put them up early. After the run, BYU kept on rolling to a 14-9 lead, forcing Utah head coach Beth Launiere to use a timeout. Unfortunately for the Utes, the timeout didn’t do much, as the Cougars closed out the set, 25-18.
Utah had multiple unforced errors in that first set, as their passing game was full of mistakes. The Utes had five service errors, something that had seemed improved the last couple of games.
“We haven’t had those kind of passing problems all season long,” Launiere said.
In the second set, Utah cleaned up on its serves but still struggled with passing. After splitting the first six points of the set, BYU went on a 10-1 run to take a 12-4 lead. Utah managed a 5-0 run later in the set to get back within five of BYU, but it was just denying the inevitable as the Cougars ran away to close out the set, 25-16.
In the third set, Launiere decided there needed to be a change, so she switched the lineup by bringing Brenna DeYoung in to start.
“We tried something new,” Launiere said about the switch. “We tried to get a different matchup. Alexa Gray was on fire in sets one and two, so we wanted to go and get Shelby Dalton on her, but it didn’t matter.”
The switch proved to have no effect as BYU started the third set with a 7-0 run. Dalton finally got the Utes on the board by recording the first kill of the set. However, Dalton’s kill was one of only seven total points for Utah, as it dropped the match-clinching set, 25-7.
Schofield-Olsen only recorded two kills in the second set and zero in the third set, while the defense managed just four total team blocks. Last week, Launiere said she likes to see the total team blocks at three per set, at least.
“Clearly, we did not play well, there’s no way of sugarcoating it,” Launiere said. “We are better than that, but we didn’t show it tonight.”
BYU was led by Gray, who notched 17 kills with a .500 hitting percentage. The Cougars’ 6-foot-7-inch star player Jennifer Hamson recorded 11 kills of her own, in addition to her two service aces.
“I mean, they’ve had Jen Hamson for four years, and she’s really good,” said Launiere. “The rest of their team is good, and they played good tonight.”
Playing in a deafening environment, Launiere would not use the atmosphere as an excuse for the team’s poor performance.
“You love this as a competitor,” she said. “We are going to see atmospheres like that all the time in the Pac-12.”
The Utes will get their first taste of Pac-12 action when they travel to Boulder to take on Colorado on Thursday, Sept. 25.
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