Epic Battle Goes To The Utes
SALT LAKE -- The BYU women’s volleyball team had No. 23 Utah on the ropes Friday night but eventually fell in five sets (16-25, 31-29, 25-16, 20-25, 11-15) at Crimson Court in an epic Deseret First Duel. The Cougars looked to be in control after three sets but let the Utes off the hook to fall to 12-12 overall and 5-9 in Mountain West Conference play. Utah has now won 12 straight matches to take control of first place in the league.
“Both teams really rose to the occasion and played well, which you expect in a rivalry like this,” said BYU head coach Shay Goulding. “It’s tough to come so close and not get the win. I know that these girls could’ve won this match. If you take away a few errors, it’s a totally different game.”
Junior Kayla Walker continued her late season run as she posted her sixth double-double of the year and third in the last five matches with a match-high 20 kills and 14 digs. She also tied her career high with eight blocks, helping BYU outblock the nation’s No. 2 blocking team, 12-6.5. Senior Bryn Porter tallied her seventh double-double of the season with 13 kills and 14 digs while sophomore Kiana Rogers added her team-leading ninth double-double with 55 assists and 10 digs. Sophomore Christina Measom recorded a career-high 12 kills, and senior Rachel Dyer also contributed double digits with 10. Sophomore libero Melissa Lake led BYU with 19 digs.
After three hitting errors put BYU in a 0-4 hole early in set one, Walker finally got the Cougars on the board with a kill down the line. However, the Utah lead quickly grew to 9-2 as BYU struggled to find an offensive rhythm. The Cougars strung together back-to-back points with a kill from Porter and an ace from Rogers to cut the lead to six points at 11-5. Trailing 16-6, BYU got on a roll with a 7-2 run sparked by a kill from Ashton Hansen Hosford to get within five points. But errors continued to plague the Cougars down the stretch and prevented them from coming back. Utah took the set, 25-16, while holding BYU to just -.024 hitting.
The Cougars began set two in spectacular fashion with three huge blocks, showing the nation’s No. 2 team in that category how it’s done. Hosford, Walker and Measom all got in on the action to put BYU up 3-0. After a Utah kill, the Cougar block party continued with three more to post a 6-1 advantage. The Utes began to climb back with a 5-1 run and had a chance to knot the score, but a kill from Measom followed by back-to-back winners from Dyer maintained the Cougar lead at 10-6. From there, the two teams battled with BYU holding on to an 18-13 lead. But the Utes weren’t done on their home floor as they scored seven of the next eight points to take their first lead of the set at 20-19. A hitting error on the next ball tied the score, and the race to 25 was on.
With the score still knotted at 23-23, Utah got a kill down the line out of a timeout, but Walker ensured the set would last a little longer with a winner off the block. The Cougars staved off another set point at 25-24, fittingly with a block from Dyer and Walker. BYU got a chance to take the set after a net call on the Utes but could not make it happen. The see-saw battle continued with all the emotion and energy one would expect from the storied rivalry until BYU finally pulled out the win with a kill from Walker and a net call on the Utes to post a 31-29 victory. The Cougars tallied seven blocks in the frame and held Utah to .055 hitting.
Dyer got BYU started in set three with a kill down the middle, and the two teams scratched and clawed to a 7-6 Utah lead. Walker then hit a ball down the line that sparked a 5-0 Cougar run resulting in an 11-7 BYU advantage. The Utes made it close at 12-11, but the Cougars kept their composure and pushed to a 17-12 lead, prompting a Utah timeout. However, the view from the Ute sideline did not get any better after the break as the Cougars cruised to a 25-16 win. BYU hit .400 in the set behind strong all-around play from Walker, Measom and Dyer.
The Cougars got out to an early 4-2 lead in set four only to see the Utes go on a 6-1 run to take an 8-5 advantage. However, moments later, it was BYU with the run and the momentum after scoring five of six points to go up 12-11. From there, neither team was able to gain more than a one-point lead until Utah pulled ahead at 19-17. With the match on the line, the Utes held on for a 25-20 win, hitting .400 in the process.
With 15 points left to decide the winner, Utah struck first, scoring the first three points of the shortened fifth set. Porter finally got BYU on the board with a cross-court winner, but the Utes continued the charge in front of a raucous crowd to go up 5-1 before the Cougars could blink. The Utah lead grew to 8-2 as the teams switched sides with Porter posting both BYU points. The Cougars scored three of the next four points including kills from Hosford and Measom to cut the deficit to 9-5. Trailing 11-6, a kill from Measom sparked a 3-0 spurt to get within two, but the upset was not to be as Utah pulled out a 15-11 win.