Utah blanks Wildcats, advances to second round of NCAA Tournament

The Utes advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after sweeping Kansas State in straight sets on Friday evening. Utah only trailed three times in the three sets, twice on just the first point of the set, winning each set by at least eight points.

“We played a solid match from start to finish,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. “A lot of aspects of the match we were good, we played a very well-rounded volleyball match.”

After splitting the first six points of the match, Utah went on a 4-0 run and forced the Wildcats into using their first timeout leading 7-3. Following the timeout, Kansas State took the first point before another Utah 4-0 run, which also prompted a timeout from the Wildcats. Utah went on to win the set comfortably 25-16.

The second set was the closest of the three, but after Utah went on 12-3 run, the Utes ran away with the second set by the same score as the first 25-16. Utah headed into the break with the 2-0 lead and the chance to seal the victory after coming out of the locker rooms.

In the third set, the Utes dominated from the first tip. Offensively, the Utes were nearly flawless, hitting 14-of-24 for a .583 hitting percentage on their way to the commanding third-set victory.

Senior Chelsey Schofield-Olsen, who missed Tuesday’s practice with illness, finished with 11 kills to lead Utah. Fellow senior Shelby Dalton and freshman Adora Anae weren’t too far behind, as they each posted 10 kills on 18 attempts for an identical .556 hitting percentage.

“That was a big-time performance,” Launiere said about Anae. “You never know how a freshman is going to show up in the Tournament and she sure showed up well.”

Utah’s defense was huge as well, registering a total of 10 team blocks and held newly-crowned Big 12 freshman of the year Kylee Zumach to a .042 hitting percentage.

“We blocked her earlier on,” Launiere said about stopping Zumach. “She never got loose.”

The Utes will now face the winner of Hofstra and No.11 Nebraska Saturday evening at 6 p.m. MT on the Cornhuskers’ home court.

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@BenJasarevic