With scrambling defense and strong team depth, the No. 15 Rams defeated No. 24 BYU in three sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-19) Saturday night in Moby Arena for their 21st consecutive home match win.
Head coach Tom Hilbert dipped a little deeper into his rotation on Saturday, mixing in sophomores with the regular rotation featuring four seniors. Sophomore defensive specialist Kristen Rodrick was one of these players given more playing time.
“We do a lot of things off of what we see in practice and Kristen has been playing well,” said coach Hilbert. “She’s been passing the ball well and we base a lot of what we do on good passing.”
Add scrambling defense to her good passing. Numerous times throughout the match Rodrick was diving on the floor for the ball to extend the rally, as she recorded six digs.
“Everybody makes fun of me – they call me the flopper,” said the defensive specialist. “I fall pretty hard sometimes but it’s a lot of fun going out there and defending the court.”
Minch played in two sets and recorded two kills from her outside hitter position. Also playing significant roles were sophomore defensive specialists Emily Koenning and Audrey Hemmings.
“We’re lucky that we have a lot of kids that can do different things,” said Hilbert.
Defense was the main key heading into the match with BYU, said Hilbert, particularly the block in which the team recorded 14.
“One of our keys was to play better defense than BYU because that will get them frustrated,” said Hilbert. “As far as our block, we’re just good at it. We run great schemes and we focus a lot of time on blocking.”
On the attack, Hilbert said this wasn’t their best hitting game, but seniors Mekana Barnes and Tessa Nelson lead the team with ten and six kills, respectively, and senior setter Ashley Fornstrom added 31 assists.
“She (Barnes) had an unbelievable match, said Hilbert. “Tessa had a solid match. Ashley had a solid match from a standpoint of attacking and blocking balls. I think our outside hitters can be better than they were tonight, but we still won a match in three.”
With their wins over BYU on Saturday and Thursday again Utah the Rams now sit at 2-0 in conference play, something the team does not take lightly.
“It means a lot to win these games. These are games we know we have to come and fight. It’s really emotional because there’s so much history between us. We’re the top teams in the conference,” said senior Mekana Barnes. It’s good to get these two wins.”
The Rams continue conference play with a match against Wyoming on Friday in Moby. Wyoming defeated Utah on Saturday in three sets.