Utah Volleyball Falls To No. 11 BYU In Four-Set Battle
PROVO, Utah – The University of Utah volleyball team saw its 2021 season come to an end Saturday night as the Utes fell to No. 11-seed BYU in a four-set battle (25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 23-25) at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. Utah volleyball ended the season 22-9 overall following the second round exit of the NCAA Tournament.
"That was a great NCAA volleyball match," said Utah volleyball head coach Beth Launiere. "It says a lot about volleyball in the state of Utah to have a really great, competitive volleyball match with the amount of fans that were here. I was so proud of our team for the fight that we showed. It was a fun match to play in and to coach in. There were a lot of big plays being made and really good players making good plays."
Launiere continued, "I just couldn't be more proud. I genuinely love this team and we talked in the locker room about how we didn't really want it to end because this group is really close and really tight. It was just a great volleyball match tonight."
The tightly contested match saw many momentum swings and went back and forth the entire night. Utah finished the match with more kills, digs and assists, while BYU had the upper hand in hitting percentage, aces and blocks on the night. Each team had its moments to make timely plays and the Cougars managed to record just enough to fend off the Utes and get the win.
Utah fell behind early in the first set after BYU gained a 7-4 lead, but the Utes managed to put together six consecutive points to push ahead 10-7. The Cougars earned a sideout after a service error, but the Utes continued to apply pressure and scored the next five of six points, which forced BYU to call timeout trailing 15-9. After holding onto the lead later on at 19-15, Utah finished the set by scoring six of the final eight points to win 25-17 in a set that saw the team hit .300.
The Utes gained the early lead in the second set with a lead as large as three points, but the Cougars were able to tie the frame 12-12 shortly after. A block from the likes of Amelia Van Der Werff and Dani Drews, followed by a Madelyn Robinson kill regained the lead, but BYU would go on to score six of the next seven points to take a 18-15 lead. With the deficit extended to 23-18, Utah scored three straight points to trail by just two. BYU's Eschenberg recorded a kill for set point and despite Drews posting her eighth kill of the set to counter, BYU tallied the final point with another kill to win 25-22.
With the match tied 1-1, the teams played a close third set to begin, but the Utes gave up a 9-1 run to fall in a 16-9 hole. The Cougars seemed to have control of the set with the lead pushed to 23-15 and playing from ahead, however, the Utes found some momentum and rattled off four consecutive point to trim the lead.
BYU finally earned a sideout, but the fight continued from Utah as Madelyn Robinson posted back-to-back kills, while a Utah block and a Zoe Weatherington kill followed to trail just 24-23. Although scoring nine of the previous 10 points, Utah couldn't complete the late rally as BYU earned a kill the next play to end the set.
The fourth set went back and forth from start to finish, which followed suit with the entire match. BYU grabbed an early momentum swing after rattling off a 7-1 run to lead 11-8 to force Utah to have to play from behind the majority of the set. The Utes were able to cut the lead to just one point after a pair of consecutive kills at 18-17. Utah and BYU went point-for-point the next eight plays to reach a score of 22-21 – still in BYU's favor – until Utah eventually tied the match after a big block from Van Der Werff and Robinson.
Utah earned the lead the next play after BYU sent a ball out of bounds, which forced BYU to call timeout now trailing 23-22. Out of the break, the Cougars collected a kill to tie the set and backed it up the next play with a block on the outside. Although Utah called timeout to try to stop the series of points, Utah saw its season end on a play that had Drews taken out of her hitting approach from a collision with a teammate, and sent her scrambling to get the ball over, which she sent out of bounds to end the match.
Drews and Robinson led the Utes offensively with 18 kills and 17 kills, respectively. Drews added eight digs, while Robinson posted six digs in the duo's final collegiate match. Also suiting up for the last time was Stef Jankiewicz, who dished out 47 assists and totaled four digs.
Allie Olsen collected seven kills on nine swings and posted a team-high four blocks. Weatherington added eight kills for the Utes and Vanessa Ramirez had a match-high 13 digs.
The Utes finished the season with a 22-9 overall record after reaching the program's sixth-straight NCAA Tournament. Utah was 14-6 overall in the Pac-12 and finished third in the conference standings for the third year in a row.