Utes drop close match to first Pac-12 opponent, Colorado

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After starting the season 10-1, Utah walked into its first Pac-12 competition of 2014 with brimming confidence, hoping to snag a win from a team it’s seen success against in the past.
Utah got off to a rocky start when it dropped the first two sets of the match, but was able to fight back and force a decisive fifth set. Despite showing resiliency, the Utes couldn’t finish off the Buffaloes and dropped their first conference match of the season, 3-2. The loss drops their record to 10-2 on the year, 0-1 in the Pac-12.
Shelby Dalton got the first kill of the match to start off the night right for the Utes. After Dalton’s kill, however, it was all Colorado as the Buffaloes rattled off an 8-0 run. The Utes battled back to bring the set to within four at 15-11, but another big Colorado run pushed the game out to 22-11, Buffaloes. Utah and Colorado split the next six points, as the home team finished off the set at 25-14.
The Utes struggled as a team in the first set, only hitting .094. Chelsey Schofield-Olsen led the way with four kills and no attack errors on nine attempts.
The Utes kept the score closer in the second set, eventually taking the lead at 9-7. But to Utah’s dismay, the Buffaloes outscored Utah the rest of the way, 18-7 for a 25-16 victory, as they looked like the dominant squad in that set.
“There was nothing we did well in the first two sets,” said head coach Beth Launiere said.
Launiere’s team could not string more than two consecutive points in the first two sets. She thinks there may have been a bit of a BYU hangover, as the Utes continued to struggle with the same issues they’d dealt with against the Cougars.
Utah’s serving game looked tentative throughout the first two sets, as the servers didn’t want to commit service errors and just looked to put the ball in play. The cautious approach from Utah initiated a strong Colorado attack, as the Buffaloes had four different players with five kills through two sets.
After the intermission, Utah came out with a different lineup, which included three substitutions – senior Makenzie Moea’i came in for freshman Eliza Katoa at the outside hitter position, senior Lea Adolph switched her red jersey for a white one as she replaced sophomore Tess Sutton at libero, and junior setter Kendall Cygan came in for freshman Jessie Jorgensen.
“Things just weren’t going our way, and it just felt like we couldn’t get over the hump or do anything right,” Launiere said. “I said, ‘Just keep working, just keep working, that is what’s going to turn it around.’”
Launiere said that the lineup changes are happening mid-match due to her still looking for a third passer.
“Makenzie Moea’i came in and did a great job for us, and she really settled our passing down.” Launiere said.
The Utes were a different team coming out of the locker room, splitting the first 20 points with the Buffaloes. The Buffaloes had two chances to clinch the match, but Utah managed to fend off both points. The Utes got their first chance at match point at 26-25 and took advantage of it when Bailey Bateman and Shelby Dalton combined for a set-clinching block.
Utah carried their gritty, third set performance into the fourth set as they got off to a 10-5 lead, forcing Colorado into a timeout. The Buffaloes fixed something in that timeout, because they were able to fight back slowly but surely, tying up the match at 16.
However, their efforts proved futile, as the Utes won the set, 25-22 and, more importantly, forced a fifth and final set.
In addition to improving the passing of the team, Moea’i also registered four kills in the fourth set without any errors.
A back-and-forth deciding set had Colorado leading 8-7 when the teams switched sides. With this match only going to 15, the Buffaloes were able to gain some separation on the scoreboard,14-12, putting them in position to clinch the match with one more point.
Through all five sets, the Utes were led by Schofield-Olsen’s season-high 17 kills. Another bright spot for Utah was freshman Adora Anae, who set a career-high with 14 kills, 10 of those in the last three sets.
“Adora Anae came up big time for us,” Launiere said. “We gotta get Adora the ball more – she’s a big time terminator.”
Launiere says to expect more experience in their starting lineup on Saturday night in Corvallis when the Utes try and stop their two-game slide against Oregon State.
“I know we are very freshman heavy at times, I don’t think we can go with that many freshman at one time,” Launiere said. “I’m just trying to play who’s stepping up every day in practice.”
The Beavers went without a win in their 20 conference matches last season, but Launiere won’t let her team underestimate any opponent, saying that there is no such thing as a bad team in the Pac-12.
“It’s just about us trying to put together a full, good match and get a Pac-12 win. We don’t care who is across the net right now,” Launiere said.
The first set from Gill Colesium is set for 7 p.m. MT as both teams will look for their first Pac-12 win of the season.
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@BenJasarevic