The Utes went into the match like a student with all the answers to the test in their back pocket, and they passed with flying colors.
Utah’s women’s volleyball team earned a three-set victory, 25-14, 25-21 and 25-12, over Cleveland State to start its NCAA Tournament in front of an announced 1,792 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Thursday night.
Senior outside hitter Adora Anae led the Utes with 11 kills and also came up with 13 digs, while sophomore setter Bailey Choy triggered the offense with 26 assists. Carly Trueman added nine kills, while Kenzie Koerber and Tawnee Luafalemana each blocked five shots.
The Utes (23-9) advance to a second-round match against Purdue at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“I think this year we have that mature mindset, on and off the court,” Anae said. “It felt great to a sweep tonight. We’re ready for tomorrow.”
The Vikings (22-8) struggled to run their offense against the Utes. They posted a .037 hitting percentage in the first set and a -.059 hitting percentage in the third set. In three sets they committed 23 attack errors, which was nearly half the number of points they scored (47).
“[Against] those big teams like Utah, unfortunately, with some of your attackers at times some of their shots that normally hit that score don’t score,” Vikings coach Chuck Voss said. “Then they end up trying to do things they’re not comfortable doing and the errors pile on top of one another.”
The Utes jumped on their foes from the Horizon League by scoring the first five points of the match and seven of the first eight. Koerber tallied three of the first six points on kills to fuel the lightning-quick start.
The Utes led by 12 at one point, 17-5, in the first set and took advantage of balanced scoring distribution that included four kills by Trueman and three kills apiece from Koerber, Luafalemana and Berkley Oblad. Koerber and Oblad also had two blocks each in the first set.
“Our preparation was spot on, I think,” Choy said. “We were running the offense really well. … I thought that every hitter was available and the pass allowed me to set almost anyone.”
The Vikings made adjustments in the second set to help create scoring opportunities. Utes coach Beth Launiere pointed to the move the Vikings made to score off the tight slide right behind the setter and they started hitting higher to avoid some blocks.
The Vikings were ahead 20-19 in the second set before the Utes sprinted to a 25-21 win. A service error by the Vikings gave the Utes set point, and Anae’s spike put them up two sets to none.
The Utes countered the Vikings’ second-set adjustments and turned a corner midway through the third set. They scored the final 10 points of the match.
“We knew that Cleveland State would have a push back, and they did in set two because they’re a good team,” Launiere said. “But I thought we also handled that. We talked about ebbs and flows throughout the course of the match. I thought we handled what came at us.”
The Utes were able to scout their next opponent, Purdue prior to their match on Thursday night. Purdue defeated High Point in the day’s earlier match in the Huntsman Center, but the Boilermakers needed four sets and were in danger of losing the second set to fall behind in that match.
“By not going out here and blowing through these guys has definitely prepared us better, to go through the war we went through, for the next match,” Purdue coach Dave Shondell said. “I think we’ve been initiated in the NCAA Tournament now, so I do believe that will help us. We know what it’s going to be like. You better be ready. You better come out and be ready to play, and I don’t think we were tonight at the level we needed to be.”
Purdue 3, High Point 1
The Boilermakers (23-9) registered a four-set victory over upstart HighPoint out of the Big South Conference. The Boilermakers felt the heat inthe third set with the match tied at one set apiece and High Point(24-8) gaining confidence and leading 20-17. Senior outside hitterDanielle Cuttino recorded a match-high 18 kills, while SherridanAtkinson tacked on 11 kills. Ashley Evans led Purdue with 16 digs.
• The Utes swept Cleveland State, 3-0, in theHuntsman Center to advance to the second round of the NCAATournament.
• Senior outside hitter Adora Anae led the way with11 kills, while setter Bailey Choy dished out 26 assists to guide theoffense.
• The Utes size and athleticism stifled ClevelandState, offensively, but the Utes will host Big !0 Conference memberPurdue in the second round on Friday night.