Lori Baird had 18 kills and nine blocks in Utah's 3-1 win Sunday at New Mexico State.
Sept. 7, 2008
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - In the first true road match of the season, senior middle blocker Lori Baird led the way with 18 kills to lead the Utah volleyball team to a 3-1 (25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 25-21) win in the final match of the New Mexico State Tournament against the host Aggies Sunday at the Pan American Center.
"This was a huge win for us," head coach Beth Launiere said. "[New Mexico State] is a very good team and they don't lose at home too often. So I'm really proud of how we were able to go on the road and beat a team that was picked second in the [Western Athletic Conference] preseason poll in a hostile environment. [The intensity in the arena] felt like a conference match."
Utah hit .248, compared to .163 for New Mexico State. The Utes hit at least .229 in all three of their set victories, including a .362 clip in the final two sets. For the second consecutive match, four Utes compiled at least 10 kills.
In addition to leading Utah with 18 kills, Baird came up with a match-high nine blocks, while Emillie Toone blocked eight Aggie attack attempts. The Utes held a slight 12-11 edge over the Aggies in team blocks.
Karolina Bartkowiak was second on the team with 13 kills, but proved to be the most efficient attacker on the floor. Bartkowiak connected 13 times on 19 attempts, all without an error, for a .579 hitting percentage.
Kathryn Haynie turned in her second straight double-double effort and third of the season, ranking fourth on the team by pounding down 11 kills and finishing third on the Ute squad with 10 digs.
Sophomore Stephanie Shardlow got the start at setter and distributed a career-high 52 assists, shattering her previous career-best mark of 34 assists on Nov. 24, 2007 against UNLV. Shardlow also chipped with nine digs from her back row spot.
"[Shardlow] did a great job of passing to every area of the floor," Launiere said. "No matter where we wanted to attack, she was able to get herself and her teammates in position."
Baird got three kills early in set one to spur the Utes to a 7-3 lead, but four straight attack errors allowed the Aggies to tie the set at 13 points apiece. The two sides then virtually traded points until the Utes grabbed a 19-18 lead and then kept their momentum going by scoring the final six points of the set to seize a 25-18 first-set win. The Utes outhit the Aggies, .229 to .033.
Utah (5-1) scored the first three points of the second set and built its lead to as many as five points on three occasions. NMSU chipped away at the lead with a 3-0 run to climb back to an two-point deficit before extending the run to 10-1 to take a 15-13 advantage. The Utes were quickly behind 20-15 and could not find a way to sustain a comeback attempt and had their seven-set win streak snapped in the 25-19 decision. Utah hit for a .030 percentage, tallying only 10 kills on 33 attempts.
"Through this entire tournament, we have really gotten better at responding to adversity," Launiere said. "During that second set we got rattled a bit, but we re-focused and played great in the third and fourth sets."
The Utes once again started strong in the third set, this time scoring the first four points thanks to kills from three different players and a service ace from Fisher. Even though the Aggies came back to tie the score at 10-10, the Utes continued to execute and would never trail in the set. Utah would lead by as many as five points, including the final margin at 25-20.
After mounting a critical 5-0 run when down 13-10 in the fourth set gave them a 15-13 lead, the Utes would score six of the next 10 points for a 21-17 advantage which they would hold onto to clinch the match.
New Mexico State (4-4) got a match-high 19 kills from Lindsey Yon, who also finished second on the squad with nine digs. Krystal Torres led the Aggies with 11 digs, while Jennah Devries had 19 assists.
Utah went 3-1 at the New Mexico State Tournament, including a pair of 3-0 victories over Florida Gulf Coast and Houston. The Utes' only loss of the tournament, and so far this season, was to No. 4 Texas in the opening match of the tournament Friday.
The Utes next host a tournament of their own, the Utah Classic Friday and Saturday at Crimson Court. Utah's opening match of the tournament is against Utah State at 7 p.m., Friday. The Utes will then take on Saint Louis Saturday at 10 a.m., then No. 18 Purdue at 7 p.m.