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Outside Hitters Have Hot Hands In No. 20 Utah's Sweep Over Weber State

Sep 9, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY – The No. 20-ranked Utah volleyball team closed out its home non-conference schedule Thursday night against Weber State, pouncing on the Wildcats for a quick 3-0 match in favor of the Utes (25-19, 25-20, 25-13). Utah moves to 6-0 to start the fall season, while Weber State drops to 5-3 on the year.

"We have worked extremely hard in the last two days of practice at things we needed to get better at," said head coach Beth Launiere. "Over the course of the match we were getting better in those areas and that is what I was most happy with tonight. Those are the things that are important early on in the season and it was great to see those adjustments come to life. We will need to continue that trend the rest of the season."

Utah's outside hitters dominated the match and gave Weber State too much to manage defensively. Dani Drews posted an incredible 18 kills with zero errors, hitting .486 in the match. She also tied her career high in digs with a match-high 20 digs, which is the first 20-dig match by any Ute this season. Her counterpart Madelyn Robinson led the team with kills after tallying a career-high 19 kills on .378 hitting to add to the impressive night coming from the pin hitters.

Utah jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the first set, but the scrappy Wildcats rallied off six of the next seven points to take a 12-11 lead and force Utah to call a timeout. Madelyn Robinson earned a sideout out of the break, but Weber State continued its tough play and held onto a 15-12 lead at the midway point of the opening frame.

The Utes turned things around and used a 9-2 run to regain the lead at 21-17 and look to close the first set. Utah came within striking distance and Zoe Weatherington had a big swing to give Utah set point, while Stef Jankiewicz went behind the line and tallied an ace to end the frame 25-19.

The two in-state squads traded points early on in the second set and it wasn't until Utah led 14-13 before the momentum turned. A big kill from Weatherington began a run of five of the next six points for Utah, which pushed the score to 19-14. Weber State continued fighting and cut the lead to just 19-18 for the Utes, but after a Utah timeout, Robinson was once again there with the timely kill to put Utah back on track.

Robinson collected two more kills as the second set began to wind down and it was Drews who would put down the final point and end the set 25-20. Utah hit .308 behind Robinson's eight kills and six kills from Drews. Drews also collected nine digs to round her set.

The Utes controlled the third set from start to finish and left Weber State in a massive hole. Utah led by 11 points early on in the set and then gained a 13-point lead with the set score rolling in at 21-8. The Utes wrapped up the match with a third-set 25-13 victory to complete the sweep, closing out the night with a .410 hitting percentage in the frame. Drews continued her hot streak and posted seven kills on 11 swings to lead the group.

Jankiewicz fed the hot-hitters in Drews and Robinson all night and finished with 30 assists. She also totaled 14 digs for her third-straight double-double. Joining Drews and Jankiewicz in a double-double effort was Vanessa Ramirez, who posted 15 digs and a career-high 10 assists for her first career double-double. The outstanding defensive performance by the Utes totaled 69 digs, which tied the school record for digs in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era that was set against Oregon State on Sept. 30, 2017. 

Zoe Weatherington added eight kills at a clip of .353 for Utah, while Emily Smith tossed in nine assists on the evening. Allie Olsen led Utah with five blocks.

No. 20 Utah will prepare for a road match at No. 3 Nebraska this Saturday, Sept. 11 in Lincoln, Neb. The Utes and Huskers will play at 6:30 p.m. MT/7:30 p.m. CT in the historic Devaney Center. The match will be aired on Big Ten Plus.