#22 Utah Volleyball Sweeps LMU, Falls To #23 Kansas in Four Sets
SALT LAKE CITY – No. 22-ranked Utah Volleyball split its opening day of matches on Friday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, sweeping Loyola Marymount (25-22, 25-22, 25-16) in the season opener before later falling to No. 23 Kansas in four sets (22-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-23).
"This is the type of match we want and need to be in for preseason," said head coach Beth Launiere on the match against Kansas. "It was a defensive battle and had a lot of ebbs and flows, but this type of match will help us as a younger team looking to find our identity. Once we settled down after getting in a little bit of trouble, I really thought we were mentally tough and had great effort. This time of the year is about defining our team and matches like this go a long way to figure these things out."
#22 Utah 3, LMU 0
Utah got the ball rolling right out of the gate against Loyola Marymount, taking a 10-4 advantage early on in the first set. The Lions eventually chipped away at the lead and cut the score to just 16-14 in favor of the Utes, but a 3-1 run for Utah pushed the lead out to 19-14. After LMU once again came within striking distance trailing just 22-20, freshman Ashley West earned a huge kill for the immediate sideout.
A service error would give the Utes set point and it was West who collected the set-winning kill for her fourth of the frame. The freshman led the Utes offensively, hitting .429 with four kills, while senior setter Emily Smith shared the ball around her hitters and saw four Utes collect at least three kills in the opening set of the season.
The balanced offensive attack continued for the Utes in the second set as the team posted a .536 hitting percentage led by Madelyn Robinson's five kills at a .500 clip. West posted four kills on four swings, while Allie Olsen added four more kills on .571 hitting. Although the hot-hitting was there, Utah found itself going back and forth with the Lions nearly the entire set. The Utes led by three points early on, but from the midway point of the set there was no separation.
West earned a kill to tie the set 22-22 before LMU recorded an attack error the following play. Robinson earned Utah a third-straight point with her fifth kill of the set and another attack error from the Lions would wrap up the 4-0 run to end the set 25-22 for Utah.
With the 2-0 match lead, Utah once again started the set trading points, but a quick 7-2 run pushed the Utes out to a 15-11 lead. LMU earned a sideout, but the Utes put the pressure on after scoring four of the next five to lead 19-13. Utah continued its spurt of points yet again in the final moments of the match, going on a 4-1 run to win 25-16 and earn the sweep for its first victory of the 2022 season.
Three Utes hit double figures in the match as Robinson's 12 kills led the team, while West and Lauren Jardine each totaled 10 kills on the day. West hit an impressive .692 clip in her Ute debut as a true freshman and Robinson hit .500 to begin her final season. Olsen also posted eight kills and hit .538. Leading the offense was Smith, who collected 35 assists in the win and also tallied six digs and two aces.
#23 Kansas 3, #22 Utah 1
To open the second match of the day, Utah fell behind early 11-6 until scoring four of five points to trim the Kansas lead to just 12-11 in a spurt of points that saw three kills from Robinson. Later, Utah's first block of the match from Jardine and Amelia Van Der Werff tied the score at 14-14 where the two teams would battle from there. In a set that saw eight tied scores from that point on, Kansas would end up with the upper hand as the Jayhawks rattled off three-straight points to win 25-22.
Needing to bounce back, the Utes responded early and built out a 12-5 lead following six points in a row. The momentum continued as Utah kept control of the set through its entirety, and finished off the frame with an exclamation mark by tacking on another 4-0 run to lead 24-13. Van Der Werff ended the set a few points later with a kill to tie the match 1-1, wrapping up a set that limited the Jayhawk offense to just .077 hitting as Utah posted four blocks.
In the third set, the Utes trailed early and used a 4-1 run to cut the deficit to just 12-9. After a Robinson kill later cut the lead to two points, Kansas scored five unanswered points to break open the frame and lead the Utes 19-12. Utah pulled within four, but it was too late for a rally and dropped the set 25-20.
The Jayhawks jumped out to another early lead in the fourth, but the Utes were not done fighting as a kill from Van Der Werff started a 6-0 run that led to an 11-9 advantage for the home team. There were seven more tied scores and four lead changes as the set moved forward and the teams traded points. Olsen tied the set at 18-18 with a kill, but three points in a row from Kansas forced a Utah timeout as the set began to come to a close.
Later trailing 23-20, Abby Karich earned a timely kill for the Utes, which was followed by an ace from Smith to cut the lead to one point. Kansas earned a sideout for match point and another kill from Olsen kept the Utes in the game, but the comeback effort was ended from a kill by Kansas' Bien for the match win.
Robinson led the Utes with 14 kills and 9 digs, while Smith posted a career-high 40 assists and 12 digs for her first double-double of the season and the second of her career. Jardine added nine kills, while Van Der Werff tallied eight kills and four blocks. Bailey posted a career-best and match-high 14 digs, while Ramirez also hit double figures with 11 digs.
No. 22 Utah will be back in action on Saturday, Aug. 27, against Utah Valley to close out the Utah Classic at the Huntsman Center. The Utes and Wolverines will matchup at 4 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks.