SALT LAKE CITY – Sophomore outside hitter Morgan Odale registered her third double-double of the season, but the University of Utah volleyball team lost a three-set decision to No. 2 UCLA (12-25, 20-25, 17-25) in a Pac-12 Conference match Friday at Crimson Court.
Utah (6-9, 1-5 Pac-12) held an 8-7 edge in team blocks but was outhit .352 to .143 in the match.
“We played well at times,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. “That’s been a pretty common theme this season so it’s not surprising. I am quite proud of our team. We worked on our offense a lot this week and we did some nice things on the attack. That was an area that we had been struggling with so that was a big improvement for us.
“UCLA is a good team. We struggled stopping them. There is a reason why they are ranked No. 2 in the country. Physically and athletically, we are doing a good job playing with these teams but we just aren’t able to keep it going all the time. I am really proud of our effort and getting our offense going.”
Odale had her 12th career double-double with a team-high 10 kills to go with a team-high 10 digs and four blocks. She earned her eighth double-figure-kill performance of the season and also reached double-digits in digs for the sixth time in 2011.
Sophomore middle blocker Erin Redd pitched in seven kills to go with two digs and two blocks, while Shelby Dalton contributed five kills.
Junior setters Abby Simmons and McKenzie Odale combined on the setting duties for Utah as Simmons dished out 16 assists and Odale gave out 11 helpers.
Defensively, senior middle blocker Danielle Killpack tied for match-high honors with five blocks in the three-set affair. She also added four kills.
UCLA took the first six points of the opening set and led by as many as 13 (24-11) en route to a to 25-12 first-set victory. Morgan Odale had five kills on 10 swings with only one error for a .400 hitting percentage, but the Bruins outhit the Utes, .576 to .235, in the opening set.
“(After falling behind 6-0) we changed our style of play and our system a little bit to get out of that rotation and that helped,” Launiere said. “The key thing was that we moved (Redd) to hit a different set that was a better match up for us. We mostly just tried to settle the team down a little bit. We were really excited about this match and we came ready to play and it’s daunting when you’re down all of a sudden. We tried to keep them settled down and confident.”
The Bruins took four of the first five points of the second set, but the Utes tied the set for the first time with a 4-1 spurt. The set was tied twice more (9-9) before UCLA answered with three consecutive scores. Utah responded with a 4-1 stretch to tie the set for the third time at 13-13, but UCLA quickly pushed its lead back to 16-13.
Utah got no closer than two as the Bruins went on to a 25-20 second-set victory. Morgan Odale had three kills while Killpack, Redd and Dalton each had two kills apiece but Utah was limited to a .188 efficiency on the attack and yielded a .333 hitting percentage to UCLA.
UCLA jumped out to a 5-1 at the outset of the third frame before Utah responded with four consecutive points to force the second tie of the set, 5-5. The Utes earned their first lead of the by taking two of the next three for a 7-6 advantage, their first of the match. The set would be tied four more times (10-10).
Unfortunately for the Utes, the Bruins scored three straight times to assume a three-point edge (13-10) and would lead by as many as eight points and went on to clinch the match with a third-set win by the same margin, 25-17.
Chelsey Schofield turned in a team-high three kills in the finale. Defensively, Morgan Odale had six digs and Killpack turned in four blocks in the final set of the night.
No. 2 UCLA (12-2, 5-1 Pac-12) received a match-high 18 kills from Rachael Kidder and Lainey Gera was credited with a match-high 13 digs.
“UCLA doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and they battle for every point,” Launiere said. “If you give up some unforced errors, you’re going to get behind real fast. In sets one and three, we made more errors and in Set 2, we played a pretty clean game so we were able to stay with them.”
The Utes conclude their inaugural Pac-12 homestand Sunday against No. 5 USC. First serve is set for 2 p.m. MT. A live stream of the match can be viewed at http://utahutes.cstv.com/allaccess/?media=259526.
Mike DeVine is an assistant athletic communications director for the University of Utah
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