Utah Volleyball Heads to Sweet 16 After Record Setting Weekend

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Utah Volleyball Heads to Sweet 16 After Record Setting Weekend

By Mallory Arnold, Sports Writer

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The No. 17 University of Utah volleyball beat two extremely competitive teams this weekend to take them to the Sweet 16 for only the fourth time in program history. Their first match was against Illinois, where they went five sets to take the win, and the second was against in state rival No. 14 BYU. The Utes swept the Cougars in three straight sets in the Smith Fieldhouse, which brings their season total to 24-9, 14-6 Pac-12. Utah will play against No. 3 Stanford in the third round next weekend. 

Last week was the last week of Pac-12 play where the Utes played Oregon State and the Colorado Buffs, beating both teams in three straight sets. They celebrated three seniors in Kinga Windisch, Brianna Doehrmann and Berkeley Oblad. The team ended up third in the Pac-12, which is the best finish in program history. 

In the first match against the fighting Illini, Utah almost lost but was able to come back in the fourth and fifth sets to win it. The match versus Illinois was named one of the best first round matches by NCAA.com. Illinois placed seventh in the Big Ten and played a lot of tough competitors as well.

In the first set, things were even until Utah went on a 5-0 run to go up 20-15, and take the set 25-23. The second set Illinois held the lead until the Utes were able to come back to tie it up at 18. Utah fought hard but Illinois took the set 24-26. For the third set, Utah reached set point two times but Illinois kept fighting and beat the Utes 25-27. Utah knew that in the fourth set they would have to get back their momentum to get the win, which is exactly what they did. The Utes were down 17-14 before going on a 6-1 run to take the lead and eventually the set at 25-23. Utah stayed hot in the fifth to take the match and set at 15-10. 

It was a record breaking night for the Utes as three players broke the barrier in the books. Doehermann tabbed 21 digs on the night to become the all time digs leader in program history. Dani Drews, a name all Utes fans know, beat the single season record of kills and is the first player in program history to tab 600 kills in a season.  Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres, the setter and maestro of the team, now holds the single season record for assists after tabbing 57 versus the Illini. 

This next match was an incredible effort by the Utes, as they got their rhythm very early to turn the tables after a tough loss to BYU earlier this season.

In September, the two teams faced off and BYU swept Utah in four sets at home. This time the roles were reversed and it was Utah who swept the Cougars in three straight on their home court. Utah came out hot and ready to play from the get go. The game started with an ace, and Utah never once slowed down. Utah took each set by a whopping ten points — 25-15, 25-15, 25-15. Utah had a .394 hitting percentage while the Cougars only hit .109. As a team, they were hitting on all aspects, with 12 blocks, four aces, 49 kills and only 10 errors. If the Utes keep this momentum going into the Sweet 16, they could be unstoppable. 

Drews led the team with 17 kills, and Kenzie Koerber was right behind her with 11. Oblad tabbed eight kills and Zoe Weatherington got seven. Phoebe Grace led the team with seven blocks, and Oblad and Koerber were right behind with five blocks a piece. BYU hasn’t been swept at home since 2011, so Utah is breaking the record books all over. 

In a post game interview with BYUTV, Koerber said, “We had a tough first round and we were like, ‘why us?’ But looking back, it really prepared us because we came in with full confidence, we knew we wanted to win this match.” 

Utah will play Pac-12 winners Stanford next week in Palo Alto, but the time is still to be determined.

 

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