It was a great volleyball match. There were some swings where I thought the match was over, and nothing was going down for either team. It was truly an earned win. —Utah coach Beth Launiere
SALT LAKE CITY — From the stands, it looked like Purdue had Utah on the ropes in the fourth set of Friday night’s second-round NCAA volleyball game.
But on the sideline, the Utes, who were down 22-18, were as confident as ever as they huddled up for their last timeout. In fact, senior outside hitter Adora Anae screamed as her teammates gathered around her, “We’re still dancing!”
“I was like, we’re winning this for sure,” said Anae, who was brilliant with 27 kills and .367 hitting percentage in Utah’s 25-23, 25-19, 13-25, 27-25 win over Purdue Friday night at the Huntsman Center. “The way we walked off the court; the way we responded; and we talked before about championship mindset; we weren’t thinking of anywhere but forward.”
The Utes relied on solid serving and stellar passing in the first two sets as they edged the Boilermakers, who had a better hitting percentage but not as many swings as Utah. In fact, on the stat sheet, the match favored Purdue.
Their hitting percentage was better (.356 to.253 for the match), they had more digs (64-52) and more blocks (36-9).
“Congratulations to Utah,” said Purdue head coach Dave Shondell. “This is certainly one of the best teams (coach Beth Launiere) has had the (good) fortunate to coach. They’re a likable team. They play hard. They compete. They’re disciplined. They’re well-coached, and they can do some different things. They were every bit as good as I was afraid they might be.”
After winning the first two sets, Purdue rallied and completely controlled the third set. The Boilermakers hit .600 while holding Utah to .118. The team was led by Azariah Stahl’s 15 kills, Danielle Cuttino’s 16 kills, and Blake Mohler’s 10 kills.
The fourth set was like a heavyweight bout between two prize fighters desperate to win.
“It was a great volleyball match,” Launiere said. “There were some swings where I thought the match was over, and nothing was going down for either team. It was truly an earned win.”
Launiere would have understood if her players struggled with doubts or fears, but all she saw was ferocity.
"Lots of stuff goes through your head when you're down 22-18 and 24-22," she said, as she was flanked by two of her seniors. "But just a week ago we were down 23-20 at Colorado and we came back and won that fourth set. I felt like we were pretty confident."
Luafalemana said the team was determined to give everything they had to advance to the Regionals next weekend.
"We kept saying, 'Leave it out on the court,'" she said. No matter if they got a big hit or big kill. We brought it together every point and said, 'They're going to get theirs and we're going to get ours."
Defensively libero Brianna Doehrmann led the team with 18 digs, while Anae added 12 digs. Setter Bailey Choy finished with 40 assists, while setter Camryn Machado finished with 16 kills. Carly Trueman, the team's third senior, finished with 10 kills, but several of them were critically timed.
"It was a great volleyball match," Launiere said, "a great environment. I couldn't be happier."