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Cougars outlast Utes in 5 games

BYU players celebrate a point in the first game of the Cougars' 5-game victory over Utah Friday night at Crimson Court.
BYU players celebrate a point in the first game of the Cougars' 5-game victory over Utah Friday night at Crimson Court.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

The fourth-best team blocking night (26) in BYU history, a triple-double from Chelsea Goodman and career-tying nights in blocks from three other Cougars were all it took for BYU to finally get a volleyball victory at Crimson Court Friday night.

The Cougars hadn't won in Utah's gym since 2000, when Elaine Michaelis was still coaching, and they hadn't won a game there since Jason Watson became head coach a couple of years ago.

But on Friday, in a spirited fight on both sides, the Cougars prevailed thanks to six straight Ute errors at the end of the fifth game, 25-30, 30-24, 30-23, 26-30 and 15-7. The Utes ended Game 2 much the same way, with four hitting errors out of the final six Cougar points.

"I'm not used to this," Watson said, relieved that this victory at the formidable Crimson Court helped keep the Cougars in the Mountain West race at 13-5 overall, 5-3 in the league. Utah fell to 7-10, 3-5. Both teams are at league-leading Colorado State for their next matches, BYU Thursday and Utah next Saturday.

Friday's match was highly competitive, both teams matching the other point-for-point for long stretches and benefiting from the other's errors as often as not. BYU had 12 service errors, Utah nine, for instance.

"Most times that's the way these matches go. It was an incredibly emotional match for both teams," said Watson. "Both sides really needed it in terms of the conference race, and so there was a lot of pressure, so it certainly ebbed and flowed. I was really proud of how composed we were in Game 5 after what happened in Game 4 to us.

"Our mistakes late in Game 4 made me a little nervous going into Game 5. We had some things go our way early in Game 5, made some plays, created a little bit of separation there, and on the turn we were able to increase it," Watson said.

One thing that helped the Cougars make all those blocks, he said, was that BYU actually served well despite the errors and got Utah out of system. "That enabled our block to have some time to set up and get on some tendencies."

Utah coach Beth Launiere was not all that rankled over the loss. "We fought and we battled. If we do that, I don't feel bad about that," she said, though she noted that the ebbs and flows of the match were "kinda how we've been a lot."

But she added, "It's not OK, in my opinion, for an opponent to have as many blocks as they had."

Goodman was pleased to have her triple-double with 21 kills, 11 digs and 12 blocks but said it wasn't her best match, admitting she didn't start all that well. She did start to take over in Game 3 with seven kills on 10 tries and four block assists.

"I think she's everything for us," Watson said.

Goodman credited her middles for taking the pressure off. "Rachel (Dyer) and Ashton (Hansen) were on fire. I'm so glad I have them as my middles," Goodman said, noting her personal battle against Utah's right-side hitters Whitney Webb (22 kills) and Karolina Bartkowiak (15), who each had career highs.