Utah Volleyball Sweeps Washington State on Senior Day

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U of U Volleyball player, Dani Drews (#1), during the game against Colorado on Mar 21, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on campus. (Photo by Tom Denton | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The No. 12 University of Utah volleyball grabbed a huge sweep over No. 13 Washington State on Sunday afternoon. Overall, it was a close match, but some clutch play in the second set was huge in sealing the day for Utah, keeping them in the race for the regular-season Pac-12 title.

Additionally, it was senior day at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, and the Utes honored three seniors before the match. Kenzie Koerber, Dani Drews and Alexa Van Komen were all recognized for their many accomplishments at Utah. 

“I think they’ve all had a major impact on our program,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “Alexa, even though she doesn’t play, she has been such a role model for everyone on the team… She’s a great teammate and works hard… I don’t know how you even quantify the impact that Kenzie and Dani have had on our program… They made an impact their freshman year, they’re two of the best players in the country.”

Utah went back and forth with the Cougars in the first set. It was dead even at 12-12 about halfway through the set. But then, Utah went on a nice little run to give themselves some breathing room, and they were able to finish off strong, grabbing a 25-18 victory to go up 1-0.

Another close set in round two led to an 11-11 tie. A quick 3-0 burst by Utah prompted a timeout from the Cougars. Washington State brought it all the way back over the next few minutes, tying things up at 19 each. The two teams went back and forth, leaving it tied at 20, then 21, then 22, then 23, 24 and eventually locked at 25. Utah finally broke through to grab the next two points, getting a victory in set two, 27-25. Some really exciting, back-and-forth volleyball was played on Sunday afternoon. Going up 2-0 was huge, leaving the Cougars no room for error.

Washington State looked completely unfocused and rattled to open the third set, and Utah capitalized, going up 8-3 early on. The Cougars battled back to pull within one of the Utes, 10-11, before a timeout from Launiere. Utah locked in after that break, scoring six points in a row to go up 17-10. Down big, the Cougars made an attempt to break the Utes’ confidence, coming back to scare them before another Utah timeout to talk things over, up 23-20. The Utes were able to close it out and seal Washington State’s fate, getting a sweep with a score of 25-22. A 3-0 victory over the 13th ranked team in the nation was a great way to cap off senior day.

“They are really good, and it was big. They’ve had some COVID issues lately so they weren’t 100 percent,” Launiere said. “Glad we were able to take care of business against a really good team.”

Washington State was 10-2 coming into the match, with Utah sitting at 12-4. Washington and Oregon are 14-3 and 13-3 respectively. Utah plays Oregon State twice next weekend, while Washington gets Cal and Oregon gets Arizona State. The Utes need to win out and hope that both of those squads lose at least one of their games to move up in the standings. Washington State will go on to play Arizona twice, and a loss in one of those games would ensure the Utes remain ahead of WSU in the standings.

Utah will hit the road next weekend to match up with the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday and Saturday to close out the regular season. There is plenty to play for the Utes as they look to lock up some high seeds in postseason play.

“Oregon State is not going to be easy. They play tough defense, they play well at home, and we need to go in there and work our butts off to be ready for the tournament,” Launiere said.

Overall, the Utah volleyball team is in a position to be in play for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. The lowest they can be is No. 5, only if they lose out and UCLA wins.

 

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