Chelsey Sandberg had seven kills and five blocks Friday against Furman in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dec. 5, 2008
CLEMSON, S.C. - Three different Utes registered eight kills apiece as the No. 12 national seed University of Utah volleyball team earned a three-set win against Furman (25-17, 26-24, 25-17) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday at Jervey Gym.
"It's always great to win an NCAA [Tournament] match," Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. "It's something that we never take for granted. Furman is a great team. They came out and played well and had a great game plan. They did some new things against our block but we responded very well, like we have all season."
The Utes finished the match strong by hitting .636 in the third set and held a .304 to .115 edge in the match overall. Utah gained a 10-8 advantage in blocking, led by a match-high six blocks from Emillie Toone. Chelsey Sandberg also had five blocks, while Lori Baird turned in four.
Utah (25-5) got eight kills apiece from Toone, Baird, and Kathryn Haynie in the match. Toone needed only 14 swings and registered a .500 hitting percentage with one attack error, while Baird hit .353 on 17 swings with two errors. Karolina Bartkowiak had a match-high .583 hitting percentage with seven kills on just 12 swings without a single attack error. Haynie chipped in seven digs on defense.
"That's the great thing about our team," Baird said. "[Opponents] try to key on one player but we have so much talent on this team that we know someone else will come through for us in the clutch, just like what happened tonight."
Setters Keisha Fisher and Abby Simmons both coordinated the Utah attack with 18 assists apiece.
The Utes extended their season-long win streak to 10 matches and have won 18 of their last 19 contests since Sept. 25. Utah is now 20-0 when winning the first set this season and is 15-0 when taking victories in the first two sets. The Utes are now 10-3 in true road games this season and are 13-4 away from Crimson Court overall.
The Utes scored seven of the first 10 points of the match and found themselves ahead 10-5, then put together a 5-2 run to go ahead 15-7. The Paladins came back with a 5-1 run to cut the deficit to five points at 21-16. Utah got a block from Cinthia Silva and Haynie then a Sandberg kill to put their lead up to seven points (23-16) then closed the match by scoring two of the final three points en route to a 25-17 win. Haynie had three kills on five swings and just a single attack error for a .400 hitting percentage. Four different Utes came up with a pair of kills apiece as the Utes outhit the Paladins .200 to .081. Fisher came up with seven digs in the back row, as Utah outlbocked Furman 4-2 in the opening set.
"We really wanted to come out and play well early," Launiere said. "In the NCAA Tournament, every team is ready to play. Furman came out with great energy, but we are a good road team and we were able to maintain our composure throughout the match."
Utah was down 2-1 early in the second set before scoring three consecutive points to take a 5-3 lead. Furman went on a 4-1 run to take a 7-6 lead. The match was tied at lead 10 times and neither time had more than a one-point lead until a Sandberg kill and block gave Utah a three-point edge at 20-17. The Paladins took four of the next five points to the set at 21 points apiece. The match remained tied at 24 until consecutive kills by Toone and Silva gave the Utes a 26-24 second-set win. Utah outhit Furman .200 to .096, while both sides had four blocks apiece. Haynie and Sandberg came through with four more kills apiece for Utah in the set, while Fisher had 11 more digs.
"One thing we've done well all season is respond to adversity well," Launiere said. "Our two middle blockers [Toone and Baird] got kills for us and then [Sandberg] stepped up in set two and [Bartkowiak] played big in set three. Our right-side hitter [Sandberg and Bartkowiak] were the difference-makers for us."
The Utes dropped eight of the first 13 points in the third set before going on a 4-0 run to take a 9-8 lead. The set was tied on six more occasions until a Paladin attack error and kills by Bartkowiak and Toone gave Utah an 18-15 advantage. Utah maintained its three-point margin at 20-17, and then closed the match by scoring five unanswered points en route to a 25-17 match-clinching victory. Utah hit a blistering .636, while Furman hit .208. Bartkowiak came through with five kills on seven swings in the fourth set alone, at a .714 clip for the set.
Furman (21-14) was led by a match-high 11 kills on 32 attempts by Kelly Kirby. Kirby managed a .125 hitting percentage to go along with seven digs and two blocks. Alison West totaled nine kills on 31 attempts for a .161 clip in addition to her four blocks.
Utah is 9-9 all-time in its 11th all-time NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Utes take on Clemson in the NCAA Tournament's second round tomorrow at 5 p.m. MT in Jervey Gym.