After some inconsistent performances over the past few games, Utah coach Beth Launiere didn't know what to expect as her team took on Wyoming Friday in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
Her big smile afterward told the story after the Utes swept Wyoming 30-24, 34-32 and 30-26 at Crimson Court. Besides going 1-0 in the MWC, Utah improved to 7-5 on the season.
"It was a much-better effort, a lot more consistent," Launiere said. "We had two great practices this week, and preparation leads to confidence. The team really responded tonight."
The Utes were coming off a disappointing three-game loss at Utah State on Tuesday night, on top of a loss to Nevada and a lackluster win over Weber State last weekend. Launiere made some subtle rotation changes, but the main difference Friday was the way the players responded.
"This team really has great character, with really strong senior leadership," Launiere said. "We were ready to play tonight."
The Utes took game one, outhitting the Cowgirls .278 to .171. Wyoming came back and nearly won game two, leading the Utes 29-27 before Danielle Leichliter and Kelsie Kartchner hit back-to-back winners.
Shelly Sommerfeldt was responsible for Utah's next three winners on kills, before Leichliter's block won the game at 34-32.
Utah led by as many as eight points in the third game before coasting home.
Kim Turner led the Utes with 17 kills and a .500 hitting percentage, while Ute setter Kartchner made eight kills along with 43 assists. Sommerfeldt and Leichliter each had 11 kills, and Lyndsey Henderson added 10 kills and led the team with five blocks.
Next up for Utah is Colorado State, which was picked for second behind the Utes in the preseason poll. The Rams knocked off BYU in three games Friday night. The Utes and Rams (10-4) tip off at 7 p.m. tonight at Crimson Court.
"Colorado State is very athletic and very physical," said Launiere. "They'll bang and bang and we just have to match their physicalness at the net."