Sophomore right-side hitter Shelby Dalton (pictured) and Alli Spurrier will serve as Utah's right-side hitters in 2012.
Aug. 13, 2012
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SALT LAKE CITY - With the first serve of the 2012 Utah volleyball season 11 days away, utahutes.com will offer a position-by-position breakdown of the Ute roster preps fans for the upcoming year as well as a look at the schedule for Utah's second season in the Pac-12 conference. This is the first in a five-part series about the student-athletes Utah has at each position heading into the season as well as the competition they will face.
Monday, Aug. 13: Right-side Hitters
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Outside Hitters
Wednesday, Aug. 15: Middle Blockers
Thursday, Aug. 16: Setters/Liberos
Friday, Aug. 17: Schedule
It is often said that student-athletes make the most improvement from their freshman to sophomore years. Can this concept carry over to an entire team? The 2012 edition of the University of Utah volleyball will put this theory to the test.
"There's no doubt that there's a higher level of comfort knowing what we know about the Pac-12," Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. "Everything was so new last year and we just didn't know what to expect. I feel that going into this season, we have the lay of the land at least. Last year was exciting. Everything was new and we did very well considering that. This season, we're getting down to business."
"We started 2.5 freshman and three sophomores last year and as that core goes through the next couple of years, they're going to build a significant amount of experience. That group has been starting its whole career so we're excited for the next two years. We have a core of very athletic players. We have good size and they're getting good experience under their belt while they're young."
After a season of competing in the premier volleyball conference in the nation, expectations have risen within the Utah program.
"This season isn't about learning or the excitement of the newness anymore. We made a mark last year, the Pac-12 realized we were going to be competitive every night and we picked up some good wins. This program has a lot of history and tradition and we continued that into the Pac-12. We were competitive most nights and other teams in the Pac-12 felt that way. This year, it's a different ball game."
So what exactly did the Utes have to adjust to last year in their new league?
"[The biggest adjustment] definitely was getting used to the mental wear every night. We absolutely had to bring it mentally every night. It's so cliché, but it's so true. We have to be mentally prepared every night. That changed the way we do things, too. It changed the way we prepare. During the week of practice, it was important that we competed, but at the same time didn't wear ourselves out mentally so we could be ready every Friday and Saturday night. By the second round of Pac-12 play, we started figuring things out and that's why we got better."
"It was very productive. We got very intentional with our offense. We learned in the Pac-12 that at the end of the year when looking at what statistics actually mattered and what we needed to improve, we realized our offense had to get better. We were among the top three in the conference in blocking, but we weren't very high in opponent hitting percentage. We had to work on our defense behind the block and transition attacking in our offense. After looking at every statistical category, it came up that our offense has to get significantly better. We focused on that and made some changes. We're running our offense much faster than we were a year ago. [First-year assistant coach] JJ [Riley] came from the men's game, where they run their offenses really fast and he helped us make that change. We're running the back row much more than we were a year ago. Our offense is going to look quite a bit different."
Sophomore Duo of Dalton and Spurrier Bolsters Utah's Right-Side
"We have a nice group of right-sides," Launiere said. "They were both freshmen last year and obviously Shelby got a lot of experience, but Alli got some good playing time at different points throughout the season as well when we were going in and out of the 6-2. She got some good time in there. I remember Alli playing against Cal and going in there and getting some big blocks in set three against AVCA Second-Team All-American Tara Murray. She got some good experience. I feel good about that position."
Dalton refused to rest on her laurels during an offseason that saw her compete with the U.S. Women's National A2 Team over the summer and continued to improve every aspect of her game.
"Shelby had a really big offseason," Launiere said. "She came in over her head for the first month of last season and she figured it out then obviously became a full-time starter for us and did really well. She made significant gains this spring, which isn't surprising, because she had a lot of little things to work on. That was huge."
Right Side Hitter Player Notes:
So. RS 6-1 Moab, Utah Grand County H.S.
Represented Utah as a member of the U.S. Women's National A2 Team this summer ... emerged as one of the top freshmen in the Pac-12 by the end of the 2011 season ... developed into Utah's defensive stopper on all of other Pac-12 team's top outside hitters ... came off the bench for the first six matches of last year, but once she started figuring the game out, she did not come off the court ... made a big impact on blocking ... expected to make an even bigger impact offensively in 2012 ... a hard worker who everyone on the team respects ... mentally tough ... becoming a more complete player with a year under her belt.
So. RS 6-3 Salt Lake City, Utah Olympus H.S.
A left-handed player who is a very good jumper ... a flyer and a smooth athlete who is very fluid in all of her movements ... a very good blocker ... big and has a feel for the block as well.