As the Utes start to hit their stride, here come their rivals from Provo looking to knock them down a peg.
The Utah women’s volleyball team brings a seven-match win streak into its annual matchup against BYU at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. This match between 16th-ranked Utah (8-1) and 14th-ranked BYU (8-1) will mark the ninth time they’ve met while both were ranked in the Top 25 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
“It’s always a great battle,” Utes senior outside hitter Carly Trueman said. “I think that’s always why we’re so excited to play BYU. There’s always a lot of epic plays that happen, and it’s our rivalry. It’s always just a fun [match] that everybody wants to win more than any other [match] to be honest.”
This year’s meeting between the teams will be the 100th in the all-time series.
“I totally expect just an unbelievably great match,” Utes coach Beth Launiere said. “It’s two really good volleyball teams that are going to be going head-to-head Thursday night at 7 o’clock. Rankings don’t mean anything. Rivalry doesn’t mean anything. There’s going to be a lot of talented volleyball players, it’s going to be great volleyball match.”
Last season, the Utes beat BYU in Provo to snap a five-match losing streak to their rivals. The win helped spur the Utes to a 20-12 campaign and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. After defeating BYU, ranked ninth at the time, the Utes went on to record road wins against nationally-ranked Pac-12 opponents Colorado, Washington State and USC.
“They had won for all the years I’d been here,” Trueman said. “I guess it did give us more confidence. It showed us we could win in other people’s territory. I think that was a big theme throughout last year, taking our road games and winning a lot of them.”
The Utes enter Thursday night off a sweep of the Utah Volleyball Classic with wins over Green Bay, Missouri and San Diego. The victory over San Diego gave the Utes their first against a Top-25 opponents in the Hunstman Center since November 2014.
Junior middle blocker Berkeley Oblad, sophomore setter Bailey Choy and Trueman all made the All-Tournament Team, and Oblad garnered Tournament MVP honors as well as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.
“Last weekend, if anything made us more aware that we deserve our rankings,” Trueman said. “We’re a good team, and we’re going to do well this season.”
This week is the final tune-up for the Utes before they dive into Pac-12 Conference play next week. They’ll play at Utah Valley on Friday.
“The nice thing about the schedule that we’ve played – I tell the team it wasn’t for the faint of heart – is that it has exposed some things,” Launiere said. “There’s just little things, obviously we’re still winning. You know, when you play strong competition it forces you to get better. I think we’re in good shape that way, that we’ve had good competition to challenge us and to pick apart our weaknesses and force us to make some changes and improve.”
No. 14 BYU at No. 16 Utah
Thursday, 7 p.m.
At Jon M. Hunstman Center, Salt Lake City
Records: BYU 8-1, Utah 8-1
TV: Pac-12 Networks