Utes struggle in matches against UCLA and USC

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— Courtesy of University of Utah Athletics

Southern California wasn’t kind to the Utes, as they lost matches over the weekend to No. 17 UCLA (3-2) and No. 20 USC (3-1) Utah has struggled historically against both schools, as they worsened their all-time record against the Bruins and Trojans to 2-15 and 1-13 respectively.
Utah found themselves in an early 4-0 hole to start the first set against UCLA, but the Utes didn’t panic and, with some help from some Bruin service errors, Utah was in a tie match at 10-10. The two teams went from a 10-10 tie to 19-19 tie without either team leading by more than a point. The Utes took six out of the next ten points to win the first set 25-22
UCLA had a total of five service errors in the first set, including three from their star lefty Karsta Lowe.
“I think their service errors gave us an opening,” head coach Beth Launiere said. “I thought we played well, but their service errors definitely helped us.”
The second set was a different story, as UCLA led from beginning to end. The Utes couldn’t even manage to tie the score at any point in the set. As bad as that sounds, the Bruins never ran away with the set either, winning by only five points, 25-20.
After a 2-0 Utah lead to start the third set, it was all UCLA from that point on, as they won the set 25-18. Lowe wasn’t going to be stopped on Friday night as she registered a career-high 30 kills with a .404 hitting percentage.
Shelby Dalton was the story of set four as she led the Utes back from an early 4-0 deficit to a 25-22 victory. Dalton had nine kills combined in the first three sets of the match, but registered nine kills in the fourth set alone.
“They were coming at us hard and we didn’t have an answer, but we kept battling as they were slowly wearing us down,” Launiere said. “Then, Shelby came up absolutely huge in set four and turned it around for us.”
Going into the fifth set, Utah had the momentum, but it didn’t mean much as the teams were even through the first 14 points of the set. UCLA then went on a mini 3-0 run to give them a 10-7 advantage. The Utes fought back to tie the match up at 11, but in the end, Utah’s Makenzie Moea’i made an attacking error as she hit the ball into the net. That proved to be costly as the Bruins won the fifth set 15-13.
Dalton and freshman Adora Anae each had career highs of 18 kills in the match. Dalton was almost perfect on the night, having only two attack errors on 39 attempts. Not all was good though as leading kill-getter Chelsey Schofield-Olsen arguably had her worst match of the season. She had nine kills with six attack errors on 33 attempts. Four of Schofield-Olsen’s nine kills came in the final set.
Moving on from UCLA, the Utes had to get ready for one of the best servers in the Pac-12 in USC’s Samantha Bricio. Bricio has a serve unlike anyone else in the Pac-12, as she hits the ball over 45 miles per hour.
Bricio got her first chance to serve with USC trailing 3-4 in the first set, but when she was done serving, the Trojans led 11-4. Six out of the eight points on USC’s 8-0 run were aces by Bricio. The Utes never recovered from the big gap in the first set and lost 25-14.
“We couldn’t do anything, we put four passers back, we called timeouts. It’s just a really crazy, good serve,” Launiere said about her efforts and the team’s effort to stop Bricio in that first set.
Bricio’s set affected the rest of Utah’s game, as they were making errors in other areas.
“We were playing pretty well up until that run, it definitely shook us no doubt about it,” Launiere said
The second set was much different in controlling Bricio’s serve, but Utah led only once in the set. The Trojans won the set 25-20 and possessed a 2-0 lead going into intermission.
As in other games this season, Utah came out strong despite a 2-0 deficit. In the third set, the Utes had a 7-4 lead and maintained it throughout, winning 25-21.
The fourth set was an interesting one, with Utah holding Bricio to only one serve in both attempts she had in the set, but USC still managed three service aces total. Utah hung around for awhile, but eventually dropped the match-clinching set, 25-18.
Schofield-Olsen, Anae, Bailey Bateman and Carly Trueman all tied for the team lead in kills with eight. Dalton also added seven kills of her own. Libero Lea Adolph led the way defensively for Utah with 19 digs.
The Utes will next get a chance to compete this weekend when they welcome in Cal and No. 1 Stanford over the weekend in the Huntsman Center.

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@BenJasarevic