Utah Volleyball Falls In Four-Set Battle To #15 BYU
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Volleyball dropped a four-set battle Thursday night at the Huntsman Center, falling to No. 15 BYU (20-25, 25-22, 28-26, 27-25) in a competitive match from start to finish.
"I thought that was a gritty performance by us tonight," said head coach Beth Launiere. "We faced a lot of adversity and challenges, and at one point we had three true freshmen out on the court together. Different players stepped up tonight and that has been happening all season long, which is great to see. We continue to be put in these positions and will eventually get one of these close matches to go our way as our experience continues to grow match by match. I am very proud of the effort and fight we showed tonight."
Utah received career-high performances from Abby Karich and Ashley West offensively with standout outside hitter Madelyn Robinson unavailable to play this evening, while Viktoria Wahlgren stepped in as setter in the second set and capped off a terrific outing with a career-best 41 assists and five blocks. Karich posted a career-high 17 kills in her first career start, while West added 12 kills.
Utah jumped out to a commanding 15-8 lead in the first set in front of a raucous Huntsman Center crowd following a 4-0 run, which forced BYU to take its second timeout of the opening frame. The Cougars went on to score six of the next seven points out of the break and get right back into the set, trailing just 16-14. An attack error later put Utah ahead 18-15, but four unanswered points from the Cougars found the Utes behind 19-18. KJ Burgess recorded a kill after a Utah timeout, but BYU would use a 6-1 run to end the set and stun the Utes after they had built out a lead early on.
The momentum continued for BYU into the next set as Utah trailed 5-1 out of the gates. Utah chipped away at the lead and after consecutive kills from Karich the Utes took a 7-6 lead. Later, Utah received a kill from Lauren Jardine before Megan Yett recorded her first ace of the match to force BYU into a timeout after falling behind 14-10. Utah later used a 4-1 run to extend the lead to 18-12 and once again looked in control of the set.
Utah saw its opponent trim the lead to just 22-19 as the momentum shifted and three-straight points led to a tied set, 22-22. Out of a timeout, the Utes shut down the rallying efforts from the Cougars and scored three-straight to win the set. Including two kills in the final three points, Karich posted seven kills in the set on .500 hitting to lead Utah.
The defense came alive in the third set as Utah posted five blocks at the net, while Vanessa Ramirez totaled 10 digs in the frame to lead the back row. The third set saw 17 tied scores between the Utes and Cougars with the largest lead for either team being three points. Utah played from behind to start until three consecutive points tied the frame 14-14. Later, a service error from BYU followed by an attack error pushed the Utes to set point at 24-22, but three points in a row turned the tides as Utah suddenly trailed 25-24. Allie Olsen earned the sideout, but with back-to-back service errors between the teams, the set was tied 26-26. A pair of kills ended the frame in BYU's favor 28-26.
The fourth set played out similarly to the third set, with 15 tied scores and five lead changes. Utah pulled ahead 18-15 after back-to-back kills from Jardine, followed by a block between Jardine and Olsen. BYU called timeout and then went on a 5-1 run to pull ahead 21-20 late in the set. West collected a kill to tie the frame, but a pair of points pushed the Cougar lead to 23-21. Utah scored three of the next four points to extend the match, which included a pair of blocks from Wahlgren and Amelia Van Der Werff, but a Ute attack error pushed BYU to another match point at 25-24. Jardine tied the set with her 13th kill of the night, but a BYU kill and service ace would end the night at the Huntsman Center, winning the set 27-25 and the match 3-1.
Karich, Jardine and West's double-figure kills led the Utes offensively behind Wahlgren's career night at setter, while Olsen also added nine kills on .444 hitting with five blocks. Ramirez posted a match-high 22 digs, which is her fourth match of 20 or more digs this season. Yett also posted a season-high 14 digs, as well as three aces. Burgess contributed four blocks to Utah's season-best 12 total team blocks.
Utah will be back in action Friday night at 7 p.m. MT against Utah State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The match between the Utes and Aggies will be live streamed.