LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Behind the strength of a 13-2 fifth-set rally, the University of Utah volleyball team capped its non-conference schedule with a 3-2 win (13-25, 25-10, 20-25, 25-23, 15-4) at New Mexico State on Thursday in the Pan American Center.
The fifth set between the Utes and Aggies was tied twice early on, but with the score even at 2-2, Utah closed on a fierce 13-2 run to clinch the match with a 15-4 win. Utah hit .571 and had 5.0 team blocks in the finale, compared to a .000 clip and 0.0 blocks for NMSU. Junior right-side hitter Shelby Dalton and junior middle blocker Bailey Bateman turned in four blocks apiece, while three different Utes had two kills apiece.
“We stayed composed throughout the match,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. “We executed well and blocked a lot so that made a big difference. This was a good win. New Mexico State has a good program. They are a good team and win a lot of matches at home so we’re happy to come away with the win.”
Utah (11-1) outblocked New Mexico State for the match, 13.5 to 6.0, and the Utes outhit the Aggies, .278 to .201. The Utes picked up their third consecutive road victory and improved to 1-1 this season in five-set matches this year.
“We weren’t blocking well until sets four and five,” Launiere said. “Blocking is just part of what we do so when Erin [Redd-Brandon] got hot in sets four and five that helped things a lot.”
Three Utes hit double-figures in kills as senior outside hitter Morgan Odale hit .314 for a match-high-tying 14 kills to go with eight digs and four blocks. Junior outside hitter Makenzie Moea’i had 13 kills on 30 swings for a .300 efficiency, while Dalton registered 12 kills on 27 attempts for a .333 hitting percentage. She was also third on the team with five blocks.
Redd-Brandon turned in a match-high seven blocks to go with eight kills.
Junior outside hitter Chelsey Schofield tied junior libero Lea Adolph for team-high honors with 15 digs apiece. Schofield also added eight kills.
Sophomore setter Kendall Cygan coordinated the Ute attack with 28 assists and pitched in seven digs, two kills and a pair of aces.
NMSU edged out to a 4-2 lead early in the first set of the match and would not look back on the way to a 25-13 first-set victory.
The tables turned in the second set as the Aggies claimed the first two points of the frame before the Utes stormed back with four straight scores to grab a 4-2 advantage, and their lead continued to grow for the remainder of the set during a 25-10 second-set win.
In the third frame, NMSU took three of the first four points and jumped out to an 8-4 lead. The Aggies then used a 5-1 run to build a nine-point lead (19-10), but the Utes responded with an 8-3 stretch to pull within four (22-18). Unfortunately, NMSU was able to come away with the 25-20 win and a 2-1 edge in the match. Odale posted a team-high four kills in the frame, while Adolph turned in five digs.
The back-and-forth affair continued as Utah grabbed the first two points of the fourth set and managed a 3-1 advantage, but NMSU took back-to-back points to force the first tie of the set. The Utes then took seven of the next eight points to assume an 11-5 advantage, and Utah leaped out to a 17-9 lead. The Aggies cut their deficit in half (19-15) after a 6-2 run, but the Utes maintained their four-point lead (23-19) before holding on for a 25-23 win to extend the match to the fifth set. Moea’i posted four kills on nine attempts with one error for a .333 efficiency, while Redd-Brandon pitched in two blocks.
New Mexico State (3-7) was led by 14 kills and nine digs by Lauren Loerch.
The Utes open Pac-12 Conference competition next week in Salt Lake City by hosting Colorado on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. MT and No. 5 USC on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. MT. Both matches from the Huntsman Center will be carried live on the Pac-12 Networks with the Colorado match being televised nationally and the USC match aired regionally.
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