Volleyball: Utes defeat Rice, Missouri, Fall to Illinois State at Tiger Invitational

volleyball Justin Adams

The Utah Volleyball team (4-2) began the Tiger Invitational in Columbus, Missouri, on Friday Sept. 2, against the Rice Owls. The Utes swept Rice (25-21, 25-17, 25-18), led by Adora Anae, who posted her third double-double of the season with 12 kills and 14 digs.

Carly Trueman, who was switched back to the left side of the court during this week’s practice, racked up 14 kills with a .565 hitting percentage.

“Carly had a very good week of practice, and she was ready to play this weekend,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “We were able to set her a ton of balls in both matches today, and she took advantage of what we were throwing her way. She had some great swings earlier in the week, and I think that carried over into this afternoon [against Rice] and then again tonight.”

Senior Tess Sutton recorded 16 digs in the match. Both Tawnee Luafalemana and Eliza Katoa controlled the net with three blocks each, and sophomore Jessie Openshaw led the Utes with 19 assists. The Utes victory over the Owls (2-3) is one of the most impressive matches of the season for Utah, recording just nine hitting errors with a team hitting percentage of .376.

Following the sweep over Rice, the Utes returned to the court later Friday night to face the host Missouri Tigers (3-1). Utah would fight its way back after falling to an early 2-0 game deficit by winning the final three games against the Tigers, clinching its second victory of the evening (17-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11). Anae finished with 25 kills, 18 digs and two blocks, her second double-double of the day. The victory marked the first time Utah has come back after being down 2-0 against a non-conference opponent.

“We struggled to pass the first two sets,” Launiere said. “We changed some things up and put more passers on the court, which allowed us to get into more of a system. That really helped our team gain the confidence that we needed. We absolutely lost the serve-and-pass in the first two sets, but then we came out and won it over the final three sets, and that was the difference in the match.”

Freshman Bailey Choy recorded her second double-double of the season after recording 45 assists (a career-high) and 10 digs in the victory. Utah’s digging effort was clear as the Utes would out-dig the Tigers 65-55, led by Torre Glasker and Sutton with 10 digs each. Trueman racked up 14 kills in the second consecutive match, as well as Luafalemana (14 kills).

After an exhausting Friday night, the Utes would return to the court Saturday afternoon to take on the Illinois State Redbirds (4-3). Despite the Utes’ dominant performance in the first two matches of the Tiger Invitational, the Utes fell in five sets (23-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-18, 13-15) to the Redbirds.

Trueman recorded a career-high of 20 kills, while Choy notched her third double-double of the year with 43 assists and 10 digs. Trueman, who posted a team-best 48 kills on the weekend, hit .333 and had five digs during the Tiger Invitational. Choy totaled 103 assists, while averaging 7.92 assists-per-set on the weekend.

After winning two out of three matches in the Utes’ first two preseason tournaments, Utah will attempt to win all three matches of the Portland Invitational next weekend, beginning with Texas State on Friday, Sept. 9.