The No. 20 Utah Volleyball team proved they belong in the NCAA Tournament by sweeping the Kansas State Wildcats to the side and continuing on their winning path. The Utes may be the hottest team in the tournament right now, having won eight of their last nine matches, including six over tournament teams.
"I thought we played a really good volleyball match tonight," said Utah head coach Beth Launiere, who is now 12-11 all time in the NCAA Tournament. "That was a pretty well rounded match and we did a lot of things well. Kansas State made some runs for sure, but I thought we answered them. I thought that our experience level was alive and well tonight and I had a freshman that had a pretty great match as well."
The match started with the teams trading points before the Utes took off on an 8-1 run. Kills by seniors Bailey Bateman, and All Pac-12 First Teamer Shelby Dalton, as well as great play at the net by Bateman, senior Makenzie Moea'i, and freshman Adora Anea, helped the Utes on their run. The Wilcats used a 6-1 run to cut the Ute lead to 22-15, but that's as close as they would get, and Utah put away Kansas State and the first set 25-16.
The second set was more even as both teams traded blows. Every run was matched by one in return. The match was even at 14-14 when Utah went on a 7-0 run to go up 21-14. Senior Chelsey Schofield-Olsen used six blocks in the set to take the second set 25-16, and the Utes headed into the break with a 2-0 set lead.
The Utes came out with determination to finish the match in the third set. A 5-5 score is as close as the Wilcats would get. The Utah widened the gap throughout the set, and finished the set with a 6-1 run, and finished off the set 3-0.
"I think my team plays pretty loose," said Launiere. "It is going to be a big challenge tomorrow night, no doubt, but I like the experience level, and this group has a high trust level amongst them."
Schofield-Olsen led the Utes with 11 kills in the match, and Dalton and Anae each had 10 of their own. Dalton and Anae both hit .556 in the match. Utah had 43 kills to Kansas State's 31.
K-State had its lowest hitting percentage on the season with its .072 output. Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Kylee Zumach, came into the match leading the Wildcats with 406 kills (3.59/set), but she recorded just six kills on .042 hitting against the Utah defense. Chelsea Keating led the Wildcats with seven kills and Gina Madonia had a team-high nine digs.
The Utes recorded 43 kills to K-State's 31 and outblocked the Wildcats 10.0-5.0. Utah had more digs (47-39), assists (40-29) and service aces (6-2) in the match as well.
The Utes advance to take on No 11 Nebraska tonight at 6 p.m. MT from Lincoln. The Utes are 0-2-1 all-time against Nebraska. The last time the Utes and Cornhuskers met was in the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament back on Dec. 5, 1998. Nebraska won the match, 3-1.
Second round action will be televised on NET in Lincoln and surrounding areas, while a live stream will be provided by Huskers.com as well as the Big Ten Network. Live stats will be provided for tonight's match as well.