Utah Volleyball Downs UConn, Drops Five-Set Battle To #12 San Diego
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The Utah volleyball team ended the USD Invitational with a split on Saturday, defeating UConn in four sets (25-20, 20-25, 25-14, 25-18) and dropping a five-set road battle to No. 12-ranked San Diego (25-22, 15-25, 18-25, 25-17, 9-15).
Emily Smith and Megan Yett were named to the All-Tournament Team for their performances over the weekend. Smith averaged 9.85 assists per set and 2.31 digs per set, while Yett returned to action with 2.46 digs per set. Smith collected a pair of double-doubles over the three matches, which included a career-best 49 assists vs. UConn. She also posted a career-best four aces and four blocks against the Huskies. Yett reached double figures in digs in two matches and led the team with 13 digs against San Diego on Saturday night as a defensive specialist.
Utah 3, UConn 1
Utah used a 6-1 run in the opening frame to pull out to a 12-8 advantage, but UConn later responded with a 6-1 run of its own to force Utah to call timeout and talk it over. Out of the break, the Utes scored seven of the next nine points and led 21-17 late in the first set. The Huskies managed to trim the lead to just two after scoring consecutive points, but a kill from Amelia Van Der Werff started a 4-1 run to end the set and win 25-20.
Utah had four players with at least three kills hitting above .300, highlighted by four kills on four swings by KJ Burgess and Madelyn Robinson's six kills. Vanessa Ramirez also collected seven digs to pace the defensive efforts.
UConn turned the tides in the second set after jumping out to a 9-5 lead, however, a 6-1 run for the Utes sent the Huskies behind in the count 11-10. Later leading 15-14, Utah gave up six straight points to fall behind 20-15. Although the Utes cut the UConn lead to just 21-19 shortly after, Utah could not complete the rally and saw UConn score four of the next five points to tie the match 1-1.
Utah pounced on UConn right away to begin the third set, jumping out to an 11-1 lead. The closest the Huskies could pull within was eight points as the Utes continued to apply pressure and eventually win the dominant set 25-14. 11 Utes saw action in the third set with seven recording at least one kill, combining for a .429 hitting percentage. Burgess also posted three blocks in the frame to lead the team.
The fourth set played out much more competitive with there being little separation to start until seven straight points from Utah broke open the frame 18-11. UConn finally ended the run, but the Utes used a 5-1 run to extend the lead 23-13 and later win the set 25-18.
Emily Smith posted a career-best 49 assists after leading her hitters to a .347 hitting percentage with four Utes reaching double-digit kills in the match. Robinson posted 17 kills, Lauren Jardine tallied 13 kills, while freshmen Ashley West and KJ Burgess each added 10 kills. Burgess also led the team with a match-high seven blocks, which is the most recorded by a Ute this season. Ramirez led the back row with her third match of 20 or more digs this season after collecting 20 digs against the Huskies.
Utah 2, #12 San Diego 3
The match started as a defensive battle inside Jenny Craig Pavilion with the Utah backline and San Diego net play battling it out. The opening set went back and forth until Utah went on a 5-1 run to pull ahead 14-10. After another spurt of points, Utah pulled out to its largest lead of the set, 17-11, but San Diego would ultimately chip away at the lead and cut the score to just 19-17. Three points in a row pushed the lead out to 22-17, and the Utes would hold off the Torero rally to win 25-22. Madelyn Robinson's six kills in the set led the squad in the win even with the team hitting .121 and San Diego posting nine blocks to Utah's two.
San Diego broke open the second set after going on a 4-0 run to lead 12-7. Later trailing the Toreros 15-10, Utah could not piece together any momentum as San Diego would end up scoring six unanswered points to pull away 21-10. The damage was done and Utah went on to drop the set 25-15 after hitting just .185 compared to San Diego's .423 clip.
In the third set, Utah slipped just a few points behind midway in the set, but a 4-0 run for the Toreros created a 19-12 deficit. The Utes managed to cut into the lead and trail just 22-18 after West recorded a kill, but the late rally was ended as the Toreros scored three in a row to end the set. The blocking again was just too much to overcome as San Diego posted five in the frame, along with four service aces.
Utah's offense turned it around in the third set, hitting its best clip of the match at .333 between five hitters. The hot-start began from the get-go when Utah ran out to a 9-2 lead. The Toreros threatened the lead when they pulled the score to just 11-8, but a 6-1 run for the Utes reopened the set when they gained a 17-9 advantage. Utah did its job to maintain the set the rest of the way, tallying a 25-17 fourth-set victory to head to a decisive fifth set. Abby Karich stepped up big for the Utes with six kills on .500 hitting in the comeback effort.
In the fifth set, the Utes and Toreros traded momentum point by point. Jardine and Allie Olsen collected a block to gain a 7-6 advantage, but six-straight points from San Diego shifted all momentum for good on its home court. Olsen finally earned the sideout for Utah with a kill in the middle, which was followed by a solo block from Olsen the play after to give Utah a glimmer of hope. Out of a San Diego timeout, three consecutive points from the home team would end another five-set heartbreaker from a top-15 team for Utah.
Smith led the team with 40 assists and 10 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Robinson collected 13 kills and Jardine posted 11 kills, while Olsen came up big for the Utes with eight kills on .421 hitting with six blocks. West tallied nine kills and Karich finished her evening with seven kills and 10 digs. Megan Yett posted a team-best 13 digs, while Vanessa Ramirez finished with 12 digs.
Utah will return to the Jon M. Huntsman Center to begin a four-match home stand. The Utes will host in-state rivals BYU and Utah State next Thursday and Friday, Sept. 15-16. Utah and BYU will play Thursday at 7 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks, while Utah and Utah State's match will be live streamed at 7 p.m. MT on Friday.