McKenna Miller mashes as BYU volleyball takes down rival Utah - Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Down 2-0, No. 18 Utah had dug deep and forced a fourth set, winning the third set 25-12 — the largest margin of victory in a set on Thursday night at the Huntsman Center. The Utes had momentum for the first time all night and the crowd on their side, looking to tie the match up at two sets and force a fifth set.

No. 12 BYU calmly regrouped and won 7 of the 9 nine points in the fourth set en route to winning the set 25-18 and polishing off the match in a 3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 12-25, 25-18) victory over its rival to the north.

“We just went back to work, we kept our focus. I told them to have a short memory as far as winning the first two sets and losing the third set. We just said, ‘Forget that set, let’s get back to work, and they did that, from the very first point of the fourth set,” BYU head coach Heather Olmstead said.

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  • Brigham Young University players cheer after a point against the University of Utah in volleyball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • University of Utah’s Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres sets against Brigham Young University in volleyball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young University’s Heather Gneiting hits against the University of Utah in volleyball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Most of the statistical categories on Thursday slightly favored Utah, but the Cougars made more plays than the Utes.

“I just think they made a few more plays at the end. I think both teams went in and out of passing pretty well, then struggling passing. Both teams struggled passing at times. That’s probably the biggest thing — you get people out of system and they’re in trouble,” Utah head coach Beth Launiere said.

One area where BYU shined was its passing.

“I liked our passing a lot. I thought we were in system. I thought we were able to distribute the ball,” Olmstead said. “I don’t know that it was super even, but we tried to get our middles involved, Kennedy (Eschenberg) played amazing. We would have liked to get our right side involved a little bit more, but I thought Whitney (Bower) kept problem-solving all the whole match and kept looking for people to score.”

McKenna Miller was fantastic for the Cougars, finishing with 22 kills to lead BYU.

“Obviously, McKenna was an absolute beast tonight. She wanted it, and I’m very happy for her,” Olmstead said.

Miller shined at the end of the fourth set. With BYU holding an 18-16 lead, Miller proceeded to have a direct impact in all but one of the final 7 points for the Cougars. She had two kills in a row to boost BYU’s lead to 20-16, then another kill to make it 21-16. She forced a Utah error off a block to make it 23-17 and put the Cougars within 2 points of claiming the match.

Miller had a kill, then an error by Utah after a Miller hit sealed the rivalry win for the Cougars.

“I probably want the ball more than I should, a little selfish, but I just like knowing I can put it away. Whitney (Bower) and Ki (Kiani Moea’i) both were setting me great balls, all of the out-of-system balls were great, and I was just feeling it today,” Miller said.

Elsewhere for BYU, Madelyn Robinson had 13 kills, Eschenberg had seven kills, Bower had a 1.000 serving percentage and an ace, 37 assists and nine digs.

Dani Drews, Kenzie Koerber and Zoe Weatherington led Utah’s attack. Drews led the Utes with 21 kills, Koerber contributed 14 kills and Weatherington had 13 kills. Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres had 49 assists.

Next up, the Cougars travel to Maples Pavilion to take on No. 2 Stanford on Saturday, while Utah hosts Colorado on Wednesday.

“I think it’s the same approach as every match: We’re just going to do our best to prepare,” Olmstead said. “We’re somewhat familiar with them from playing them twice last year. They’re pretty much the same. We’re just going to take it day by day, prepare tomorrow and do our very best. I think it’s going to be a great match. If we can serve tough and pass, we’ll be able to be in that game. We want to play really well.”


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