Volleyball wins some, loses some

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Utah welcomed in both sides of the collegiate volleyball spectrum this weekend when cellar-dwelling Cal and No. 1 Stanford came to town. After going through some ups and downs to start the weekend, the Utes eventually pulled out a victory over the pesky Golden Bears, 3-2, but were unable to shake up the volleyball world as their upset bid over the Cardinal fell short, 3-1.
Utah was carried offensively against Cal by their senior duo of Shelby Dalton and Chelsey Schofield-Olsen who had 17 and 15 kills, respectively. Schofield-Olsen also led the team in digs with 20.
Against the Golden Bears, Utah was down 2-0 in its first match of the season in Huntsman. The Utes won the following two sets to force a decisive fifth set. This was Utah’s fourth time in seven Pac-12 matches that have gone to a fifth set. In the first three five-set matches, the Utes went 0-3.
This time the story had a different ending as Utah finally won the decisive set.
Utah got off to another slow start as it found itself in an early 6-1 deficit. After that, the Utes began to slowly chip away at the lead and tie the match back up at 17 apiece. Two points later, Utah possessed a 19-17 lead and momentum on its side, but an 8-3 run by Cal ended the set at 25-22 in favor of the Golden Bears.
The Utes came out with much more energy in the second set and took an early 11-6 lead, forcing Cal into its first timeout of the match. After the timeout and some adjustments, the Golden Bears outscored Utah 18-10 to win the second set 25-21. The Utes were now in a 2-0 hole and on the brink of losing the match.
“Everything was in place in the first two sets, we had the passes, we had digs, we had sets, our hitters were getting one-on-ones and big holes, and they just weren’t getting kills,” head coach Beth Launiere said.
Utah walked out of intermission with a lot to play for as it couldn’t afford to lose to one of the bottom two teams in the Pac-12. In this set, Launiere made two substitutions when freshman Eliza Katoa came in for senior Makenzie Moea’i and junior Brenna DeYoung came in for freshman Carly Trueman at the middle blocker position.
An early 6-1 Utah lead disappeared quickly as the Golden Bears fought back to tie the set up at 9. From that point on, neither team led by more than two points until California took a 16-13 lead, followed by a 23-20 lead which put them two points away from going back to Berkeley with their first conference win.
However, the resilient Utes put up a 4-0 run and after a point by the Golden Bears, Utah put away the set to stay alive with a 26-24 third set win.
The fourth set was all Utah. In the beginning, the Utes jumped out to a 13-5 lead and never looked back. With no crazy comeback from Cal, Utah took the set 25-17 and forced a fifth and decisive set.
The fifth set has not treated the Utes well this season, but even after falling behind 4-2 in the deciding set, Utah came back to win the set and the match comfortably with 15-11.
Launiere gave credit to her whole team, but was really impressed by her freshman sub Katoa.
“Eliza did a great job coming in, and that really helped us getting kills out of that position,” Launiere said.
Katoa says that she knew she had to provide a spark for her team.
“I do this every day in practice. I needed to do my job and execute for my team and bring energy,” she said.
Despite the win, the Utes need a short memory as No. 1 Stanford was up next.
With 11 ties, the first set between Utah and the Cardinal were closely contested. The score was tied at 18 before Stanford pulled away and won the set 25-20. In the second set, the score was tied at 16 each when the Cardinal once again pulled away from the Utes for a 25-21 second set victory and a 2-0 match lead.
Despite gaining momentum from its win against Cal, Utah found itself in a similar situation being down 2-0, the second time of the weekend.
Utah decided to bring out its best volleyball of the season in set three and that trend continued against the No.1 team in the nation. The Utes came out of intermission and jumped out to a 9-3 lead and forced Stanford into an early timeout.
Coming out of that timeout, the Cardinal slowly chipped away at the lead and even got the lead down to just a single point. Late in the set, however, Utah led 24-23 when Bailey Bateman rose up for a big set-ending kill.
“Our staff is doing a nice job of making adjustments, our players are doing a nice job of making adjustments and coming out and doing some different things out of the break,” Launiere said.
The fourth set was the most lopsided set of the afternoon, but Utah still found themselves down only 16-15 late. In the end, Stanford used a 9-4 run to end the set, and ultimately the match, 25-19.
Despite the loss, Launiere said her team might have played better tonight than in the victory against Cal.
The Utes will next compete when they travel to Washington to take on the No. 3 Huskies on Friday.
 
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@BenJasarevic