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U. spikers rebound, rout Lobos

After falling in four games to 22nd-ranked New Mexico State on Wednesday night at Crimson Court, Utah's volleyball team that had won four in a row prior to that was not happy with itself.

Friday night at home, the Aggies' homies, New Mexico, a team that came into Crimson Court in second place in the Mountain West Conference at 12-4, 3-1, felt the Utes' wrath.

"The whole team responded," said Ute coach Beth Launiere, whose club shut out the Lobos 33-31, 30-28 and 31-29 and moved to 4-2 in MWC play, 7-8 overall.

"You saw us throwing our bodies on the floor," she said of the way the Utes fought for every point and managed to win a Game 1 in which they squandered a seven-point lead and went from 29-23 to 29-29 before winning in extra innings. Utah then took Game 2 after a 25-25 tie to winning the third game after falling behind by three in the middle.

Launiere wasn't quite ready to say her club had grown up much through Friday's match. She wants to wait and see how it responds tonight when it hosts 15-4, 2-2 TCU at 7.

But libero Connie Dangerfield said it was a valid learning experience. "Early in the year, we weren't winning those games," she said, adding that she thinks the Friday trend can continue.

Launiere was happy to say it was Utah's best-passing match of the season, something the Utes had worked on hard Thursday following being aced 11 times by New Mexico State, when the passing "was embarrassed."

Strong passing and Utah's middle game that New Mexico systemically blocks one-on-one instead of doubling gave the Utes some advantages.

Sophomore Chelsey Sandberg, who moved to the middle with Lori Baird recently, had her career game with 10 kills and .562 hitting. Lori Baird added nine kills and .350 efficiency in the middle.

Sandberg credited the passers for getting the ball to the right places so she could have her big night. "We wall worked together," she said. "We didn't let down. We kept our heads.

"We played more as a team," Sandberg said, summing up the night.

With Utah's two freshman setters maturing, Launiere said the team was able to take advantage of what the Lobos give in the middle. That might not have been possible earlier in the season as "we could see things but couldn't exploit them" with the young setters.


E-mail: lhamx@desnews.com