I don't know how many people believed we could win the match. We believed it. We laid everything out there what we had, for sure. We were No. 1 in the Pac-12 in kills. —Utes coach Beth Launiere
STANFORD, Calif. — Utah outside hitter Adora Anae poured her heart onto the Maples Pavilion hardwood Friday evening, as did her teammates. The Utes, vying for their first appearance in an NCAA women's volleyball regional final, fell to Texas in heartbreaking fashion — 25-19, 16-25, 26-24, 21-25, 16-14 — in a third-round match. Utah ended the season 24-10, the most wins since the 2008 Utes team finished 26-6.
“I don't know how many people believed we could win the match,” said Utes coach Beth Launiere, who concluded her 28th season. “We believed it. We laid everything out there what we had, for sure. We were No. 1 in the Pac-12 in kills. That's what we did this game.”
The Utes had four players with double-digit kills, led by Anae, who had a match-high 25 kills. Fellow senior Carly Trueman had 13 kills, junior Berkeley Oblad had 12 kills, while senior Tawnee Luafalemana had 10 kills.
Texas coach Jerritt Elliott, whose Longhorns are now 27-2, was impressed with the play of Anae.
“You can tell the way she plays, she is a veteran player,” said Elliott of Anae. “She has great swings, she can hit off-speed. She can hit away balls and hard lines. Hit off the top of the block. We had a hard time controlling her.”
“Adora Anae is a great competitor,” Launiere said. “She was aggressive from the start with her swings. She was confident and wanted the ball. She passes and digs and does so many other things for us. She is one of the top six rotation outside hitters in the country.”
The Utes got down 4-1 in Game 5, prompting Launiere to call timeout.
“We needed to pass the ball,” Launiere said. “Our passing was struggling a little bit. We had to relax. We've been down a lot lately. I don't think anyone was too rattled about it.”
A miscommunication on the Longhorns' side of the net seemed to give the Utes some momentum. A kill by Anae, a nice swing for a winner by Trueman and an ace by Anae — her third of the night — and it was 5-5.
Trailing 10-7, the Utes climbed back in it with a kill by Luafalemana. A block by Luafalemana and the set was 10-10 as the hundreds of Utah fans raised the roof. A kill by Oblad brought 12-all.
The Utes fought off match point as Oblad put one down. The Longhorns' Yaazie Bedart-Ghani got a dink to go for 15-14. A final kill by Bedart-Ghani ended Utah's season.
Utah won the pivotal Game 3 after tying the match 1-1 in sets. Game 3 was taut throughout with 15 tie scores and eight lead changes. A kill by Anae gave the Utes a 23-22 lead. A block by Anae put the Utes up 24-23 but the Longhorns staved game-point with a kill from Ebony Nwanebu. Kenzie Koerber's left-handed kill and it was game point. A kill by Dani Barton was just in, the Utes within one win of a coveted regional final berth.
Three Utah players had 10 digs each: Anae, Shannon Scully and defensive specialist Bailey Choy. Brianna Doehrmann also played well, contributing 30 digs.
“This is the best team I've ever had,” Launiere said. “We've been to Sweet Sixteens two other times and those teams were really good. This is the most well-rounded team, the most physical team. We serve and pass well. We put together a team that could match up against a lot of different teams.”