Shelly Sommerfeldt and the Utah volleyball team host No. 1 Hawaii and Eastern Washington this week.
Nov. 22, 2004
What's on Tap?
The No. 19-ranked (USA Today/CSTV coaches poll) University of Utah women's volleyball team (23-5 overall) will host two matches in preparation for the NCAA tournament. First up, the Utes have the heady task of playing No. 1-ranked Hawaii on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Weekend action concludes when Utah hosts Eastern Washington on Saturday, Nov. 27. Both matches are at Crimson Court and will start at 7 p.m.
Scouting the Opposition:
Hawaii (26-0 overall), which won the regular season WAC title, is on the heels of winning its fifth straight WAC tournament title. It beat Southern Methodist (3-0), Fresno State (3-1) and Nevada (3-1) last week en route to the title. The Rainbow Wahine began the preseason ranked No. 13 in the nation but have steadily climbed up the poll, ranking No. 2 in the country the last three weeks before claiming the top spot this Monday. The team ranks 11th in the nation in assists (15.81), 12th in blocks (3.23) and 16th in kills (16.91). Victoria Prince is among the national leaders in kills with 3.51 per game and in hitting, .431. The offense centers around Kanoe Kamana'o and her 13.90 assists per game while the defense features Ashley Watanabe's 4.23 digs and Prince's 1.59 blocks.
Eastern Washington (20-8) is the Big Sky Conference regular season champion and went 1-1 in Big Sky tournament play. The Eagles beat Portland State in the semifinal (3-0) but fell to Sacramento State in the championship match, 3-1. EWU, which plays at BYU on Friday, Nov. 26, has won in 11 of its last 13 outings. Lizzy Mellor and conference MVP Keva Sonderen are the top offensive threats for EWU. Mellor averages 3.48 kills while Sonderen hits .338 in tallying 3.28 kills. Christina Albers sets the attack, averaging 11.97 assists, while Sonderen's 1.07 blocks and Albers' 3.44 digs lead the defense.
Hawaii and Utah will meet on the volleyball court for the 11th time in their respective histories. The meeting renews a rivalry that dates back to the days when both programs were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Hawaii owns the all-time series lead, having won in all 10 previous meetings. The two last met on Nov. 27, 2002. Hawaii picked up a 3-0 win here in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Eastern Washington has met Utah three times. The Utes own the all-time series lead, 2-1. The two rivals last toiled on Sept. 14, 2002, in the Boise State Tournament. The Eagles swept the Utes, 3-0.
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On the final regular season matches: "We look at this week as the start of the second season so these matches are the Pre-NCAAs for us. We are excited to play teams that haven't seen us before."
On Hawaii: "Obviously Hawaii comes in here as a traditional power, one of the top teams in the nation and with great athletes. But, I've always said that we can beat any team in the country on our court. We are excited for this challenge."
On Eastern Washington: "We have talked all season about the Eastern Washington match because it's the last match leading into the NCAA tournament, and nothing is assured yet. We can't cruise in this match because not only is it important for seeding but it's important for a bid.
"Eastern Washington is a good program. It always comes out competitive and with a lot of intensity and we have to be ready to meet that challenge. Eastern Washington is coming in here and is also fighting for an NCAA bid so this match is important to it as well."
On the MWC tournament: "As bad as the scores looked against Colorado State (in the tournament final), I thought we were competing out there. Everyone went out and fought hard and gave it their best effort and that's all you can ask for. But, we need to execute better.
"We need to work hard because I believe if you work hard, everything will work out. And, right now, this team is working hard and I know that we will continue to get better."
The Utes downed Air Force (3-0) and UNLV (3-2) in making it to the Mountain West Conference tournament title match against Colorado State. However, the Rams swept the Utes, 3-0, to win the tournament championship.
The Utes held their first two opponents to a .076 hitting percentage and outblocked them, 30-16, in chalking up quarterfinal and semifinal wins over AFA (30-24, 30-21, 30-17) and UNLV (30-27, 33-35, 22-30, 30-21, 15-11), respectively. However, Utah hit a blazing hot Colorado State team (18-30, 16-30, 18-30) in the finals. The Rams hit .381 in the title match, buoyed by a .417 effort in the third game. CSU only made 10 hitting errors for the match while Utah hit a mere .099 in bagging 35 kills and 24 errors on 111 swings. The Rams outblocked the Utes, 9-1, with Utah posting only two block assists in the tournament finale.
Shelly Sommerfeldt's 3.18 kills per game and .222 hitting led the Utes over the weekend. Danielle Leichliter hit the best, bagging 2.09 kills on .296 hitting. Kelsie Kartchner tallied 6.27 assists and 3.27 digs while Connie Dangerfield was the team's dig leader with 3.55. Lyndsey Henderson's 1.09 blocks per game also led Utah.
National Rankings: through 11/16, Lyndsey Henderson is fourth in blocks per game (1.79) while the team ranks eighth (3.29). Note: NCAA stats are updated every Tuesday.
Mountain West Individual Stats: Lyndsey Henderson is second in blocks per game (1.71), third in kills (3.66), fourth in hitting percentage (.342), and seventh in aces (0.29); Connie Dangerfield is second in digs (4.21); Tracy Neumeier is fifth in aces (0.30), eighth in both assists (6.52) and 15th in digs (2.29); Amie Toone is sixth in blocks (1.25); Danielle Leichliter is 11th in service aces per game (0.26); Kelsie Kartchner is ninth in assists (6.18), 13th in aces (0.25) and 14th in digs (2.29); Shelly Sommerfeldt is 14th in kills (3.02).
Mountain West Team Stats: Utah is tops in opponent hitting percentage (.137) and service aces (1.70); second in blocks (3.24) and digs (15.09); fourth in hitting (.233); fifth in kills (15.13) and assists (13.71).
May We Have This Dance?:
The University of Utah is vying for its seventh straight NCAA tournament bid. The Utes will wrap up regular season play with two non-conference matches this week and will find out their postseason fate this Sunday. ESPNews will televise the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 4:45 p.m. First-round hosts and tournament seeds will also be announced at that time.
Ute players raked in the accolades last week. Not only did the team receive its regular season championship plaque, but four players were honored on the all-conference team while another two landed on the all-tournament squad. Connie Dangerfield, who led the MWC in digs per game with 4.28, was named the Libero of the Year while Lyndsey Henderson, Kelsie Kartchner and Shelly Sommerfeldt took home all-conference honors. Kartchner and Sommerfeldt also won all-tournament accolades for their efforts.
...With Honors (Part 2):
Beth Launiere was named the MWC's Coach of the Year. Launiere led her Utes to a 13-1 conference record, rattling off 13 straight MWC wins before falling to then-No. 8 Colorado State in the regular season finale. Her team's 13 conference wins were the most in program history while the regular season championship was also a program first.
Kelsie Kartchner was one dig shy of setting the MWC tournament record for digs in a match. Kartchner scooped up a match and career-high 24 digs in the five-game semifinal win over UNLV. Moreover, with the 33 assists, it was her 10th double-double for the season. Kartchner has had at least a double-double in four of the last seven matches. She had a triple-double in the second-to-last regular season outing against Wyoming (12k-17a-13d).
Keep Digging (Part 2):
Once again, the Ute defense was wholeheartedly tested and proved worthy of the task. The Utes responded to 229 UNLV attempts (the most by an opponent this season) by chalking up 96 digs in the five-game semifinal outing. Believe it or not, the 96 digs wasn't even the most by Utah this year. Then-No. 6 UCLA saw these same Utes scoop up 100 digs in the five-game win over the Bruins. The school record in a five-game match is 109 set back in 1996 against Santa Clara.
That's Some Tough "D":
Six of the last nine opponents have not been able to hit better than .100 against Utah. In fact, the Ute defense has held their rivals to a mere .122 average. The .122 is boosted by the three teams that hit with some success - San Diego State (.178 on 11/5) and Colorado State twice (.203 on 11/13 and .381 on 11/20). Moreover, Colorado State is the first team to hit .300 on the Utes this year. The closest a team came to hitting .300 on Utah was UC-Irvine. The Anteaters hit .281 in the five-game Utah loss. Conversely, Utah has hit better than .300 versus six opponents this year.
The Building "Blocks" Of Success:
The Utes had 22 blocks in the five-game win over UNLV in the MWC semifinals. The 22 blocks was the most in a match this season. Three Ute spikers had six or more blocks in the season-best team effort. Amie Toone's eight led the way while Lyndsey Henderson and Kelsie Kartchner each had seven and Emillie Toone six. The seven blocks for Kartchner was a career best. Other matches of note, blocking-wise, Utah had 20 blocks in the upset victory over Colorado State (10/15) and 19.5 against Utah Valley State (9/1) in the season-opener.
Digging Up The Past:
Connie Dangerfield moved into second place in the single-season record book for digs at Utah. She went into action last week with 390 digs (one behind Jenni Eyre in second) and tallied 39 digs in the last three matches. Her 429 digs thus far are good for second but she is only 28 digs short of the all-time single season record. Julie Kirby's 1993 effort of 457 digs is in peril.
The Utes check in at No. 19 in the coaches poll, holding steady from last week. The Utes have been in the poll 10 straight weeks. No. 14 is the highest ranking yet this season ... Utah is 3-4 against teams mentioned in the AVCA coaches poll. It beat St. Mary's, UCLA and Colorado State. The Utes fell to Long Beach State, UC-Irvine and CSU twice ... Whitney Webb hit .545 in five games at the MWC tournament. She had six kills and no errors on 11 attempts ... Danielle Leichliter, who averages 0.91 kills and hits .280 for the season, saw her averages jump up to 2.09 kills and .296 in tourney action ... head coach Beth Launiere is two wins shy of tallying 300 career victories ... the Utes are 5-2 in extra-point games ... Utah is 9-4 in games settled by two points ... Utah is 11-2 in three-game matches (only Notre Dame and CSU have swept the Utes), 9-1 in four-gamers and 3-1 in five-game affairs.
At The Helm:
Beth Launiere is in her 15th season as head coach of the Utah women's volleyball program. She owns a 298-177 all-time record. She has led her squad to NCAA Tournament appearances the last six seasons, including a "Sweet 16" showing in 2001. Following the "Sweet 16" showing, 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.
On the Air:
Radio broadcasts and live video streaming of home volleyball games will be available on the Internet at the official athletics Web site, www.UtahUtes.com. All seven MWC tournament (Nov. 18-20) matches will air on College Sports Television (CSTV). Please check local listings for times and station number.
The Utes will await to see if they receive an at-large bid to the 2004 NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The NCAA selection show will air at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28. ESPNews will televise it. First-round sites, opponents and seedings will be determined then as well. The tournament begins on Dec. 2 with the first and second rounds.