SALT LAKE CITY — Before their volleyball match Wednesday, Utah and Washington State linked arms and united in a moment of silence honoring a Utah track athlete killed Monday night.
The Cougars, who represent Lauren McCluskey’s home town of Pullman, even wore decals on their uniforms honoring the senior, who was remembered earlier that evening at a vigil a few blocks from the Huntsman Center.
“How do you measure that?” Beth Launiere asked in response to a question about whether or not the emotional week had an impact on Utah’s play as they were swept by No. 19 Washington State 25-23, 25-18, 25-21. “I don’t want to make excuses but you don’t prepare the same when something like that happens.”
Still, she said the reality is that Washington State just outplayed the Utes.
“First of all, Washington State is a very good team,” Launiere said. “We couldn’t get our offense going. We just didn’t get enough kills. We’d get some one on ones, and they’d make a nice defensive play.”
Washington State was led by Penny Tusa, who earned 15 kills, and McKenna Woodford, who led with 17 kills.
Utah libero Brianna Doehrmann became the 11th player in Utah volleyball history to earn 1,000 career digs during the match. She earned that honor in the first set. She finished the match with 18 digs.
Kenzie Koerber led the team with 12 kills and six blocks, while Dani Drews added 11 kills and two aces. Bailey Choy finished with 23 assists.
Launiere said the issue wasn’t talent or technique but confidence.
“When they’re digging you time after time, it gets a bit demoralizing,” she said. “But you’ve got to compete. And I think we did at times. We just aren’t sustaining it.”
The team faces another tough challenge on Friday night (6 p.m.) when it hosts No. 21 Washington in a match that will honor breast cancer survivors.