Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — BYU struck the first blow of rivalry week as the Cougars' women’s volleyball team won a thrilling five-set match against previously unbeaten Utah Tuesday night at the Huntsman Center.
BYU prevailed 25-23, 17-25, 25-14, 20-25, 15-12, improving to 7-3 on the season, while the Utes fell to 10-1.
“That’s a really nice win for us,’’ said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “It showed in the scores that we were pretty evenly matched. It was up and down. I felt whoever stayed composed at the end would win and I thought we did.’’
Utah coach Beth Launiere was disappointed in the loss, calling it “a battle all night” and a “match of runs." She added: “We were a couple of plays short."
After a tight first set when the score was tied 18 times and both teams played well offensively, the match turned defensive as both teams put together long runs.
The Utes came out strong in the second set, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and dominating the rest of the set.
After the break, it was BYU’s turn to dominate as Alexa Gray and Kathryn LeCheminant made some nice winners.
The fourth set was all Utah as it broke out to a 19-8 lead behind the play of Chelsey Schofield, only to see the Cougars hang around and make things interesting. Olmstead thought his team's determination in the fourth set helped propel BYU to the victory.
“I wasn’t going to be unrealistic and say, ‘We’re going to win this set,’" he said. “Against a good team you can’t do that. But what I did say is, ‘We’re either going to win this set or get the momentum for the next one.’ And I really felt we did that, got momentum for the fifth and came out boom, boom, boom and got a good lead there.’’
In the fifth set, the Cougars took advantage of some early Ute errors to grab an 11-8 lead that extended to 13-9. After a timeout, Utah came back with three straight points to get the home crowd on its feet.
The Utes appeared to have the next point, but the Cougars recovered and won with a kill by Gray. At the end of a long final point, Amy Boswell finished off the match with a kill.
“This is a game of momentum more than any other game,’’ said Launiere. “We were serving really well and made three service errors at the end of game four and let them off the hook a little bit.’’
Utah plays at New Mexico State Thursday before starting Pac-12 play next week at home Tuesday against Colorado.
BYU will play its West Coast Conference opener Friday at home against San Diego, which is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.
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