Volleyball: Utes Finish 2-1 in Bluegrass Battle

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Volleyball: Utes Finish 2-1 in Bluegrass Battle

Carly Trueman (10) and Phoebe Grace (19) block the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka  | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Carly Trueman (10) and Phoebe Grace (19) block the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Carly Trueman (10) and Phoebe Grace (19) block the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

Carly Trueman (10) and Phoebe Grace (19) block the ball during the Utah Women's Volleyball Red vs. White Scrimmage at the U Hunstman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carra McManamon

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This past weekend, the University of Utah volleyball team was in Lexington, Kentucky competing in the Bluegrass Battle. The Utes went 2-1 on the weekend, as they faced Cincinnati, No. 14 Kentucky and Arkansas State.

Utah opened its weekend against the Bearcats on Friday, and outside hitter, Adora Anae, set the tone for the team with 19 kills. Middle blocker, Tawnee Luafalemana, finished strong with five kills and five blocks and Shannon Scully racked up 10 digs. She went on to finish the weekend with 30 digs. Head coach Beth Launiere, who has high expectations for this freshman class – that includes Scully – was impressed with how they played in their first collegiate game.

“They all did a nice job, they really did,” Launiere said. “Scully played defense, she’s an outside hitter for us, she went in and played some great defense, passed well. She really just did a nice job.”

The Utes first loss of the season came later that night against the Wildcats, but middle blocker, Berkeley Oblad, thought the defeat was something that would motivate and push the team in the right direction.

“That was a great learning experience, we talked about that in the locker room after,” Oblad said. “It was a great experience to have on the first day of [the] season. That’s where we want to be. Playing teams like that who are going to put us in positions like that to play hard and make us better.”

The Wildcats took the lead after beating the Utes in the first two sets, 25-23 and 29-27. The Utes rallied back in the third and fourth sets, winning 25-13 and 25-20, but they fell in the fifth 15-12.

“I think you could see nerves come out in that game, especially towards the end when it got close,” Oblad said. “I think we started off nervous and then we started to get our groove back. [We] came back in those third and fourth sets, then in the fifth game, we had too many errors in a row, and the nerves came back and we just couldn’t keep up with it.”

It was a team effort that helped the Utes rebound from their loss to Kentucky to finish the tournament with a sweep over the Red Wolves the following day. Utah went 26-24, 25-23 and 25-20 to close out the weekend. Anae had 12 kills and nine digs to lead the way, plus three blocks. Oblad contributed nine kills and one block with a team-high hitting percentage of .615. Outside hitter Carly Trueman registered seven kills, while Luafalemana had six kills and a team-high four blocks.

Anae and Luafalemana were both named to the Bluegrass Battle All-Tournament Team.

Overall, Launiere was pleased with how everything turned out for the Utes and the positive things she saw, but she said there are still things that need to be worked on.

“I thought we were kinda shaky in the first match,” Launiere said. “And then against Kentucky, I thought we really got into a nice flow and we hit 290 which is great. It was a big time great volleyball match, but there were a lot of little things that we didn’t do well, which it’s day one, it’s to be expected. We came back in here and addressed them on video in practice today [Monday].”

The Utes will compete next in the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic that gets underway on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 8:45 p.m. MT at Stan Sheriff Center.

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