Kate Robison and the Utah volleyball team plays at TCU this week.
Oct. 25, 2005
This Week: Things slow down a bit for the University of Utah volleyball team (15-6, 7-3 Mountain West) as it plays only one match in each of the next two weeks. This week, the Utes travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to battle MWC newcomer TCU. The match is slated for Saturday, Oct. 29, and will start at 7 p.m.
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On This Week - "It's nice to be able to prepare for just the one match this week. We are going to get four solid practices in and that not only gives us time to improve as a team but also to prepare for TCU."
On Last Week - "We are playing our best volleyball right now. We have gained a lot of confidence in ourselves and in our team. Ever since our loss to Colorado State, everyone has begun to feel invested in this team and I think that shows."
New Kids on the Block - The youthful frontline has stepped up and been an integral part of Utah's block. Last weekend, the Utes saw three of their youngsters average better than 1.5 blocks per game. Sophomore Emillie Toone led the way with 2.00 blocks per game while freshmen Lori Baird (1.71 per game) and Airial Salvo (1.57) also jammed opposing offenses at the net.
What's the Scoop? - Danielle Leichliter has stepped in to take over the starting libero position. She took it over six matches ago and since then has averaged 3.88 digs per game. Last weekend, she tallied 5.57 digs per game. That number is buoyed by a 22-dig outing against San Diego State. That performance was one dig shy of her career high. She averages a team-best 3.08 digs per game for the season.
Net Gain - Utah's block was on the mark last weekend. The Utes came into action last weekend averaging 3.3 blocks per game but last weekend averaged 4.6 blocks in its seven games. The Utes out-blocked both UNLV, 13-5, and San Diego State, 19-7, and have only been out-blocked by one of their 19 opponents this season (BYU on 9/28, 14-12).
Marathon, Not a Sprint - In the last four matches, Utah has come out of the gates on fire. In games one and two of those four matches, Utah netted kills at a .390 clip. But, that number drops in games three and four. Utah sees its hitting efficiency slip to .180 in the last two games. Also telling is the fact that Utah averages 3.3 errors per game in games one and two, but sees that number more than double to 7.9 over games three and four.
I Love This Place - Crimson Court continues to be a thorn in the side of Utah opponents. The Utes are 9-0 this season at their home venue and haven't lost at home since a 3-1 loss to then- No. 1-ranked Hawaii on Nov. 24, 2004. Utah has reeled off 10 straight home wins since then, including a 3-2 victory over then-No. 17 Santa Clara on Sept. 16 of this year. Three of the last six regular season matches are at home with conference powers BYU and Colorado State on tap.
Self Promotion - Shelly Sommerfeldt was four kills shy last weekend of moving up yet another spot in the career kills record book at Utah. She recorded 19 kills in the last two matches and now has 1,090 career kills. She needs five more to pass Jenni Eyre (1,094) for seventh and 20 more to pass Debbie Gibby-Smith (1,109) for sixth. Sommerfeldt's former teammate, Kim Turner, holds the all-time kills record with 1,620 to her credit.
Leap Froggin' - The Utes truly benefited from their last two victories. Utah went into action last week in fifth place in the MWC, behind UNLV and San Diego State. With wins over those two programs, Utah has jumped into third place behind BYU (18-0, 10-0 MWC) and Colorado State (12-5, 5-2 MWC). Utah still has home dates with its first- and second-place rivals. BYU comes to town on Friday, Nov. 4, while CSU comes to Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The Best Week Ever - Lori Baird won her first MWC Player of the Week honor, leading the Utes in the two wins last weekend. She hit a team-high .438 last week and led the Utes with 3.57 kills in addition to 1.71 blocks per game. Her best effort was a 14-kill outing against San Diego State in which she hit .481. She also had nine total blocks. She hit .381 in tallying 11 kills and three blocks against UNLV.
Lights Out Defense - Utah continues to be one of the top defenses in the conference. Its opponents' hitting percentage is tops in the league at .143 while its blocks per game (3.40) ranks second.
Rated Rookies - Lori Baird is hitting .310 on the year to rank among the tops hitters in the league. Her average is fifth in the conference and tops among all conference freshman. Classmate Shannon Krug is also one of the top newcomers in the league. She tallies 11.31 assists per game and ranks second among all MWC freshman setters. She ranks third overall in the conference.
Whitney's Way - Whitney Webb continues to excel since joining the starting lineup. In the last four matches, she has hit better than her season average in collecting kills at a .387 clip. During that span, she hit for a career-high .600 against Air Force (10/15). Last weekend, Webb hit .364 in bagging 20 kills on 44 swings and four errors. On the year, she is hitting .222.
Dancing in Vegas - The Utes will make their postseason appearance at the 2005 Mountain West Conference Tournament. The tourney is in Las Vegas, from Nov. 24-26 and will be produced by CSTV. It will air the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship matches on its cable network in addition to streaming it on the Web. The Webcasting will be available on the conference Web site (www.themwc.com), through its All-Access feature at no cost to the consumer.
Team News and Notes: The Utes held San Diego State to .089 hitting. They have held their rivals under .100 hitting five times this year, four of them conference opponents ... Utah had 12 more team blocks than SDSU last weekend (19-7). That's the largest margin that Utah has out-blocked a team by this year ... the 19 team blocks was the second most this season. Utah had 21.5 against Colorado State (10/9) ... the Utes are hitting .244 in conference play but have combined to hit .293 in the last three league matches ... the Utes' 71 digs against SDSU were the most in conference play and most since they scooped up 83 in the four-game win over Missouri State ... Utah is 1-3 against ranked teams this year. The lone win was a 3-2 victory over No. 17 Santa Clara. It lost to No. 20 BYU (3-1), and to No. 21 Missouri (3-0) and No. 9 Tennessee (3-0) ... the team is 9-0 at home but 6-6 when it leaves Crimson Court ... the Utes have four come-from-behind wins this season (Iowa State, Missouri State, Santa Clara and TCU) ... the Utes are 4-2 in three-gamers, 9-1 in four-game matches, and 2-3 in five-game affairs ... this season, Utah is 2-2 in extra-point games ... the Utes began the 2005 season receiving votes in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Polls. They have received votes in three polls this season ... Utah was picked to finish second in the MWC preseason coaches poll. It received three first-place votes and finished two points behind the preseason favorite, Brigham Young.
Weekend Recap: The Utes made a move toward the top of the conference with league wins over UNLV (3-0) and San Diego State (3-1) last weekend.
Utah took down second-place UNLV thanks to hitting .304 and out-blocking the Rebels, 13-5. Airial Salvo led the way with 13 kills in hitting .414 for the match. The Utes held UNLV to .115 hitting and Emille Toone led the Ute defense with her eight total blocks.
The Utes laid claim to third place in the league thanks to a 3-1 triumph over SDSU. They raced to wins in games one and two in hitting .405 but had to fight to win one of the last two. Utah finished hitting .248 for the match and were led by Lori Baird's 14 kills. SDSU hit a meager .089 as Baird's nine total blocks led the Ute defense.
Scouting This Week's Opponent:
TCU - The Utes venture to Forth Worth, Texas for the first time since their 1996 campaign. TCU enters the match with a 14-9 overall mark and a 2-5 league tally. It plays Colorado State and BYU prior to squaring off against the Utes. Utah and TCU have already tangled once this season with the Horned Frogs coming out on the short end of a 3-1 match in Salt Lake City. Anna Vaughn is the team's best hitter in averaging 3.95 kills on .312 hitting. Nirelle Hampton's 10.31 assists, Talaya Whitfield's 4.35 digs and Vaughn's 1.07 blocks also lead TCU.
At the Helm: Beth Launiere is in her 16th season as Utah's head coach. She has a 314-184 career record. She has led her squad to NCAA Tournament appearances the last seven seasons, including a "Sweet 16" showing in 2001. Following her "Sweet 16" run, Launiere was named the 2001 Tachikara/AVCA Division I West Region Coach of the Year. Launiere's Utes have recorded nine 20-win seasons, and last year, Utah posted a then-school-record 12 conference victories. A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Launiere graduated from Aquinas College and was an assistant at Ferris State and Illinois before taking over the Ute program in 1990.
See Red: There are 12 home matches at Crimson Court this year. To see some of the best volleyball in the nation, contact the Utah ticket office at (801) 581-UTIX or by visiting www.UtahTickets.com.
On the Air: Fans can follow the Utes on the internet this season. By going to volleyball Web page at www.utahutes.com, you can watch and listen to Utah matches as they are streamed live across the Web.
Up Next: The Utes return home to host three of their last five matches. First up, Utah will host nationally ranked BYU on Friday, Nov. 4. The final homestand of the regular season will be on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12, when Utah hosts Wyoming and Colorado State, respectively. All three matches will be held at Crimson Court and start at 7 p.m.