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Utah Picks Up Season-Opening Win Over Utah Valley

Aug 27, 2021

OREM, Utah – The Utah volleyball team picked up a season-opening win on Friday night, downing Utah Valley in four sets (25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 25-14) at Lockhart Arena in Orem, Utah. After finding rhythm late in the third set, Utah settled in and recorded the program's 14th-straight win in season openers.

The first set saw little separation to start, but after being tied 10-10, Utah pushed a lead out to 16-12 following a run that included a pair of back-to-back blocks from Zoe Weatherington and Kennedi Evans. Despite gaining a small lead, Utah Valley inched back into the match and brought the set to an 18-17 Utah lead.

Dani Drews and Madelyn Robinson recorded a pair of kills each to regain control of the set shortly after at 23-18, but the Wolverines came back once again and went on a quick 4-0 run to cut the lead to one point. In crunch time, Robinson put Utah at set point with fifth kill of the set and after a Wolverine sideout, Drews put the set away with her ninth kill. Drews had the hot hand of the set and hit .412 to go with her nine kills.

The Utes couldn't sustain the momentum and fell in a hole to start the second set, trailing by as many as five points early on. Utah fought back and cut the Wolverine lead to 15-14, but Utah Valley stopped the momentum and used a 7-2 run to push its lead out to 22-16, and eventually went on to win the set 25-21.

Utah found its groove at the net in the third set, collecting seven blocks and limiting Utah Valley to a -0.61 hitting clip in the frame. The Utes took consecutive blocks to start a 6-2 run and push the score to 10-4, but Utah Valley countered with its own run to get back in the set and later tied it at 13-13.

The runs continued and despite building out another lead, Utah could not fend off Utah Valley and saw the lead drop to just 19-18. Drews ended the run with another kill, and an ace by the fifth year senior sparked a 6-1 run that went on to end the set and take the 2-1 lead in the match.

The two teams went back and forth in the next set until the Utes scored four straight points and broke open the fourth set at 15-9. The Wolverines recorded a kill to stop momentum, but it was too late as Utah then ripped off another 4-0 run to build its largest lead of the night at 19-11. Not looking back one bit, Utah recorded a pair of blocks, and a kill by Zoe Weatherington put the exclamation mark on the set at 25-14. Utah hit .353 as a unit in the fourth, while Utah Valley was held to just .051.

Utah's outside hitters Drews and Robinson each put down 16 kills in the season opener, while Robinson went on to hit at a .375 clip for the match. Stef Jankiewicz earned the start at setter and finished with 33 assists, while Emily Smith dished out 10 assists in the fourth set.

Defensively, Utah was led by starting libero Vanessa Ramirez, who tallied 10 digs, along with Robinson's eight digs. Evans led the Utes at the net, finishing with eight blocks, while fellow middle blocker Allie Olsen posted seven on the night. Weatherington also had a nice showing in the opener, posting seven kills and six blocks for the Utes.

Utah will be back in action tomorrow (Saturday) night for a second match against Utah Valley for the home opener at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. First serve for the Utes and Wolverines will be at 7 p.m. MT. The match will be a 'White Out' and fans wearing white apparel will receive free admission. The match will be broadcast on Pac-12 Insider.