LAS VEGAS Kate Robison had one of those "senior" moments during Thursday's quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference women's volleyball tournament, where the Utah outside hitter realized the postseason urgency and finality hinging on one's last year of collegiate eligibility.
And she turned that moment of reflection into motivation and on-court highlights, posting a team-high 14 kills to lead fifth-seeded Utah to a three-game sweep of No. 4 TCU and into tonight's semifinals against top-seeded Colorado State, the defending tournament champs and the 2007 regular-season winners.
Utah pulled to an even 14-14 overall record with the 30-15, 30-28, 30-23 victory of TCU (22-12).
"I'm just a little more focused," said Robison of the late-season push, "and it's hitting me that this is it."
Utah head coach Beth Launiere agreed: "She's playing like a senior who needs to win to keep playing I think all my seniors are playing that way."
That includes senior Whitney Webb and her eight kills and senior Connie Dangerfield and her match-high four service aces. Teammate Lori Baird added 12 kills and a .417 hitting percentage as a fitting bookend to Robison's .464, and Kathryn Haynie contributed another 10 kills.
The three-game sweep seemed relatively easy, given the Horned Frogs swept the two-match regular-season series with the Utes and had posted a 22-win total.
But Utah set a strong tone early, whipping the Frogs 30-15 in the opening game as the victors hit .444 to TCU's minus-.120.
Utah won Game 2 as well but struggled in doing so, leading by nine as late as 22-13 before TCU knotted it up at 26-all and 27-all. But Utah won three of the next four points for the 2-0 game advantage.
"We never felt like we could let down because we lost to that team two times this year," Launiere said.
She added pleasure and relief that her Utes stood firm and composed after allowing the Frogs to erase a substantial lead. "We came out and made plays and played with more confidence."
In Game 3, Utah watched a late six-point lead dwindle to just three before resuming command en route to the win.
Utah advances to tonight's 7 o'clock MT semifinal against CSU, the team that upset Utah in the 2006 MWC Tournament finals. Launiere and the Utes look forward to the challenge against the Rams, ranked No. 20 nationall.
"We've just got to come out strong," said Baird of the Utes, who split with CSU in two matches this season."We've had a lot of competitive battles with them in the Mountain West tournament," said Launiere, adding that the two programs have mutual respect for the other. "We look forward to the challenge."
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