Senior Danielle Leichliter and the Ute volleyball team host Idaho State on Friday.
Aug. 23, 2005
This Week: The University of Utah volleyball team begins its 2005 season with its home opener this Friday, Aug. 26. The Idaho State Bengals invade Crimson Court for a 7 p.m. battle. It is the first athletic event at Utah for the 2005-06 year. The Utes have won four out of its last five season-openers. Utah topped UVSC in the season-opener last year, 3-0.
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On Preseason Workouts: "I'm very happy with how the team progressed during the preseason workouts. Other than some normal fatigue, everyone was very competitive and we got a lot accomplished. There's a lot of competition for position on the team, but there's a lot of balance too so I expect it to be competitive all season long."
On the Season Opener: "I think the most important thing for us this weekend is to get our feet wet. We didn't have an alumni match and we haven't been on our court for while. So, I think it's important for us to get some matches under our belt, especially for a young team."
Scouting the Opponent:
Idaho State - The Bengals return four letterwinners from the 2004 squad that went 12-17 and finished fourth in the Big Sky. Two of their letterwinners were all-conference honorees, including Nikki Randall who led the team with 3.22 kills pre game last year. ISU has seven newcomers on the squad and were picked to finish eighth in conference in the Big Sky's preseason coaches poll.
Outlook: The University of Utah returns nine letterwinners and four starters from last year's MWC championships team that went 24-7 overall and 13-1 in Mountain West Conference action.
Headlining the returnees are two-time all-conference honoree and outside hitter Shelly Sommerfeldt and the MWC's reigning Libero of the Year Connie Dangerfield. Sommerfeldt was among the league leaders with 3.15 kills per game while Dangerfield was the conference leader in digs (4.28).
Seniors Danielle Leichliter and Katie Theurer will also lead the way. Leichliter will figure in offensively as one of its outside hitters while Theurer returns as the setter with the most experience at Utah.
The Big Three-Oh... Oh: Head coach Beth Launiere is one victory away from reaching the 300-win plateau. Launiere is 299-178 (.627) in 15 years on the Hill. Her .627 winning percentage ranks 59th among active Division I coaches.
Rated Rookies: The incoming freshmen garnered national attention when Volleyball Magazine ranked Utah's recruiting class the eighth best in the country. The newcomers include Lori Baird, Shannon Krug, Kathryn Lovell and Airial Salvo.
Honored: The Mountain West Conference preseason coaches/media polled honored two of Utah's players. Shelly Sommerfeldt was a preseason all-conference pick while Connie Dangerfield was the all-conference team libero. Sommerfeldt is a two-time all-conference honoree while Dangerfield won the MWC Libero of the Year award in 2004.
On the Edge: Shelly Sommerfeldt and Connie Dangerfield are on the cusp of entering the career record book at Utah. Sommerfeldt's 824 career kills and 2,234 attempts are just shy of Utah's top 10 while Dangerfield's 628 career digs short or being of the career top-10 record book. Dangerfield already owns the record for digs in a season, scooping up 457 last season.
The Crystal Ball: The Mountain West Conference preseason coaches/media poll is predicting a tight race this year. The Utes received three first-place votes and were picked second, two-points behind the preseason favorite Brigham Young. Colorado State was tabbed third with three-first place nods and 96 points. Last year, the Utes tied for first with Colorado State while Brigham Young came in third.
Receiving Votes: Utah received votes in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll. Utah has been ranked in the poll 59 times in the last five seasons, its highest being No. 8 back in 2002. Last year, the Utes climbed to as high as No. 14 and finished the campaign receiving votes.
Up Next: Utah begins a stretch where it will play 10 of the next 13 matches on the road. After hosting Weber State on Tuesday, Aug. 30, the Utes will head to a tournament in Columbia, Mo. There, they play No. 9-ranked Tennessee and No. 21-ranked Missouri on Sept. 2-3.