Utah volleyball coach Beth Launiere had hoped Texas-El Paso would give her Utes a better match. But with a growing injury list and coming off last week's loss at BYU, Launiere was in no position to turn down another Thursday night Crimson Court WAC sweep.
The Utes moved to 16-5 overall, 6-2 in the WAC, with a 15-7, 15-9, 15-6 straight-games win over a 12-7, 2-6 UTEP team whose best player is out for the season and which lost its setter in the final game. Utah swept SMU last Thursday before falling at No. 6 BYU.Thursday's win opened the second half of the WAC schedule for Utah, which downed UTEP 3-0 in Texas Sept. 27.
New Mexico comes a-callin' Saturday at 7 p.m.
"We were not really pushed. We took care of business," Launiere said, noting Utah got "sloppy" at times. "We blocked well, served well. I wish we could have executed more."
In the second game, the Utes had a 10-2 lead, then suddenly found the score 10-9 before freshman middle blocker Kalani Tonga earned a sideout with a crosscourt kill from the outside, and Stacie Greenwalt was in on two straight scoring blocks to jump-start Utah. Lucie Turkova served five straight points, winning the match with an ace. In the third game, Utah let the Miners hang around until 4-4, then made it 14-4 as UTEP played hard but disorganized without its regular setter.
Tonga finished with a strong .667 hitting percentage despite stress fractures in both feet. Outside hitter Brenda Barton-Whicker had 10 kills and a .375 hitting percentage. UTEP was led by Andrea Tate's 10-kill, .381 performance.
Jamie Young is out, perhaps for the season, with a cracked vertebrae and bulging disc. Erin Peterson is out at least until next week with an ankle sprain. With Brooke Barton missing the entire season (anterior cruciate ligament) and Launiere trying to redshirt McKelle Stilson, the Utes had only seven players Thursday.
That's hardly enough players for practice, so stairmasters and short practices are the way the Utes will keep in shape for a while.