SALT LAKE CITY – Four Utes hit at least 10 kills each to help the University of Utah volleyball team to a 3-2 win over Colorado (25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 24-26, 15-12) in its Pac-12 Conference opener Tuesday in the Huntsman Center.
“We will take wins where we can, but we need to get more consistent,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. “I talked about it with the team in the locker room after the game. We need to get more consistent or we won’t keep getting wins as we get into conference and play tougher opponents. We can do it, but we need to focus more on the opponent and not our own mistakes.”
Utah (12-1, 1-0 Pac-12) had three players tie for the team lead with 11 kills apiece as the Utes hit .217 on the attack, compared to .155 for Colorado, while Utah also outblocked Colorado 14.0-8.0.
The Utes held a 7-2 advantage in service aces but committed 13 service errors in the match, compared to nine for the Buffaloes.
“We were serving well and then would miss three or four in a row,” Launiere said. “They were mental errors. That is what I am talking about when I say we need to be more consistent. But overall, we played nice defense tonight. It was a scrappy match. Kendall [Cygan] probably played the best defensive game she has ever had, but we need to quit having people rely on others to step up and have everyone be more consistent.”
The Utes grabbed five of the first six points in the fifth and final set, but Utah’s lead was cut to two at 9-7 before a Shelby Dalton kill and Cygan ace gave the home team an 11-7 edge. The Buffaloes cut their deficit in half, 11-9, and the Utes maintained a two-point lead until it was 13-11 before taking three of the final four points of the match to claim a 15-12 match-clinching victory. Utah held Colorado to a .059 efficiency, while hitting .152 on the attack. The Utes also earned a 4.0-0.0 advantage in team blocking.
Junior middle blocker Bailey Bateman had 11 kills on a team-high .375 hitting percentage to go with a match-high seven blocks. She has three matches with 10 or more kills this season.
Junior outside hitter Makenzie Moea’i registered 11 kills on 25 swings with just four errors for a .280 efficiency to go with three blocks.
Dalton, a junior right-side hitter from Moab, Utah, tallied 11 kills on 36 swings with just one error for a .278 mark to go along with four blocks.
Senior outside hitter Morgan Odale turned in her third double-double of the year and the 24th of her career, as she had 13 digs and 10 kills. The Star, Idaho, native also had a pair of aces.
Junior outside hitter Chelsey Schofield and senior middle blocker Erin Redd-Brandon had eight kills apiece. Schofield reached double-digits in digs for the ninth time this season as she turned in 12 to go along with four blocks. Redd-Brandon chipped in six digs, four blocks and a pair of aces.
Cygan directed the Ute attack with 26 assists and a season-high 15 digs, which also took team-high honors. The Orange, Calif., native also tied her career high with three aces.
Junior Kalee Kirby handed out 22 assists and registered eight digs.
The first set was tied seven times, the last coming at 10-10, before Colorado inched out to a 15-11 lead. The Utes came back to force the eighth tie of the set at 16-all before going on a 5-1 run to grab a 21-17 lead. The Utes hit .303 in the set as a team and gained a 2.5-1.0 edge in blocks. Dalton hit .429 for three kills, while Schofield had four digs.
Utah took four of the first five points of the second set, but Colorado fought back with a 6-1 run to take its first lead of the set, 13-11. The Utes came back to force the second tie of the set at 14-14 and took three of the next four to grab a 17-15 edge. The set was even two more times (19-19) as Colorado closed the set on a 6-2 run to earn a 25-21 victory. The Utes hit .303 in the set as a team and gained a 2.5-1.0 edge in blocks. Schofield hit .429 for three kills in the frame, while Schofield had four digs.
In the third set, there were a pair of early ties (2-2) before CU got out to a 6-3 lead. The Utes trailed 12-9 before launching a 10-1 run for a 19-13 advantage on the way to a 25-18 victory. The Utes held the Buffaloes to a -.034 hitting percentage in the frame, while going for a .200 mark themselves. Dalton and Redd-Brandon each had three kills, while Bateman came up with two blocks.
Four ties occurred early in the fourth frame, the last coming at 4-4, before Utah reeled off four consecutive points for an 8-4 lead. The Buffaloes responded with a 3-0 run of their own to cut their deficit to one, 8-7. Utah was able to work its lead back to six at 14-8, via a 6-1 stretch, but CU came back within a pair at 16-14 and tied the set for the fifth time at 22-22. The set tied two more times (23-23, 24-24) before CU was able to take back-to-back scores to earn a 26-24 win to push the match to a fifth set. The Utes outhit the Buffaloes .293-.190 and earned a 4.5-1.0 edge in team blocks. Bateman had four kills on a .444 hitting percentage, and junior libero Lea Adolph had five digs.
Colorado (8-2, 0-1 Pac-12) was led by a 22-kill, 15-dig performance from Taylor Simpson.
The Utes continue their Pac-12 slate against fourth-ranked USC on Sunday at 1 p.m. MT in the Huntsman Center. The match will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks.
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