The ease with which Utah took down No. 14 seed BYU was stunning.
Saturday’s NCAA second round meeting was all Utes from the start, abruptly ending the Cougars season at the Smith Fieldhouse in a match BYU never led.
Utah was better at blocking, better at passing, better at serving … better at everything. The Utes were never challenged in sweeping BYU (25-15, 25-15, 25-15) to earn their fourth trip to the Sweet 16 and first since 2017.
"For sure it was the most complete match we've played," Utah coach Beth Launiere said. "We're really pleased to be moving on. This was a culmination of a season of growth where we just kept getting better and better."
The Cougars were working on a seven-year streak of reaching the Sweet 16 and had won 21 straight NCAA Tournament matches at the Smith Fieldhouse.
Those streaks came to a quick end at the hands of a confident, unstoppable Utah team.
The Utes were led by all-time kills leader Dani Drews, who had 17 kills and just one error on 35 swings (.457). Kenzie Koerber added 11 kills and hit .400 as Utah hit .394 for the match and sided out at a ridiculous 80 percent. Utah outblocked the home team 12 to 5.
In other words, BYU struggled to score consecutive points at any time during the match and once it fell behind, stayed there.
BYU (26-5), which hit just .109, just couldn’t keep pace. McKenna Miller and Kennedy Eschenberg led the Cougars with seven kills each.
"We didn't serve very tough or very well," BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. "We didn't pass very well either and that put us in a funk offensively and defensively all night. It was kind of a mismatch from the start and it just seemed like we couldn't turn it around. I could see the fight in their hearts but it just wasn't happening. At this point in the tournament you have to play your best to keep advancing and we couldn't do that tonight."
Utah dominated Set 1 from the very start, racing to a 9-2 lead after a service ace from Kenzie Koerber. The Utes hit .433, threw up five blocks and never allowed BYU back into the set. Utah sided out at 80 percent and Dani Drews had four kills on 10 swings with no errors. Freshman Zoe Weatherington had the final two points for Utah in a 25-15 victory. The Cougars hit just .097 and struggled to pass the Utes service game.
The second set followed the same pattern: Utah took the lead and BYU simply couldn’t get enough defensive stops to catch up. Drews and Kenzie Koerber scored at will with their swings as Utah hit .342 in the second set. The Cougars drew to 11-9 on a kill from Madi Robinson but that was as close as BYU could get. Koerber tooled the Cougar block and served an ace to get to set point, and a tandem block by Berkeley Oblad and Saige Torres ended it at 25-15 for a Utah win.
Utah once again took an early lead in Set 3 and never relinquished it. BYU pulled to within 12-8 on a Gneiting kill but the Utes just overpowered the Cougars at the net and pushed to a 17-10 advantage. Drews got Utah to match point and Weatherington put down yet another BYU overpass for the game winner at 25-15.
Utah (24-9) will play in the Sweet 16 next week at No. 3 Stanford.