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Utah volleyball struggles with consistency in 5-set loss to Cal

FILE: Utah Head Coach Beth Launiere talks with her players during a timeout on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.
FILE: Utah Head Coach Beth Launiere talks with her players during a timeout on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — Dani Drews isn’t just disappointed that Utah lost to Cal Sunday afternoon.

The sophomore outside hitter is most frustrated about how the Utes lost.

“We won in every (statistical) category,” the sophomore outside hitter said after Utah lost to Cal 23-25, 25-23, 25-9, 23-25, 10-15. “I think we weren’t mentally in the right place. Physically, we totally had them; all the stats show it. Mentally we were just so inconsistent with being intense and then being unfocused. I don’t even know if unfocused is the word. The inconsistency just killed us.”

Drews, who finished with 11 kills and six blocks, said she’s still trying to figure out how to be more consistent herself and help her teammates do the same.

“I think it comes with us realizing that we have the potential to be great,” she said. “We have great players. It’s just that confidence that we need to realize how good we can be.”

It seemed the Utes found that confidence in the third set when they absolutely dominated the Bears, earning a 25-9 that was highlighted by Kennedi Evans’ performance at the net. Evans finished with 15 blocks — the second most in school history.

Megan Yett added 14 kills, while Brianna Doehrmann earned 22 digs. Utah out-blocked Cal 38-18. They had a slightly higher serving percentage and a slightly lower hitting percentage (.324 to .314).

“There are a lot of positives to take from it,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “But there are some things that broke down for sure. We’ve just got to get back to work.”

Launiere said the team doesn’t want to use inexperience as an excuse, but the reality is the demands of the Pac-12 are unique and relentless.

“They have to respond,” she said. “They have to understand what is happening to us, that we’re up and down. … It’s understanding that you can’t let up for a minute in this conference.”

She said as the team matures, it will find ways to play more consistently individually and as a team.

Mima Mirkovic led the Bears with 16 kills and 13 digs. She had the final kill of the match Sunday.

The most agonizing aspect of the loss is knowing the Utes could have easily earned another win Sunday. In fact, Drews said it’s more frustrating to know they didn’t play to their potential than it is to just get steamrolled by a better team.

“I don’t think they’re a better team than us,” she said. “I don’t think they beat us. I think we beat ourselves, and I just think it sucks losing that way.”

Utah doesn’t have a lot of time to find answers as it hosts Oregon State this Thursday at 7 p.m. and No. 20 Oregon on Sunday, Oct. 14, at noon.