Airial Salvo and the Utah volleyball team head to Los Angeles for the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
Nov. 28, 2006
This Week - The No. 11-ranked University of Utah volleyball team (27-3 overall) heads into the NCAA Tournament where it will tangle with Michigan State (19-11 overall) in the first round of play on Friday, Dec. 1. First serve is set for 5:30 p.m. (PST). UCLA will host the first and second rounds at the venerable Pauley Pavilion, with the Bruins playing UAB at 8 p.m., on Friday. The winners of the first-round matches will play on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. (PST). The winner of this portion of the bracket advances to the NCAA Regional Semifinal in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 8-9.
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On The NCAA Tournament: "We are excited to be in the NCAA Tournament because there are a lot of teams that didn't get in. We're going into the tournament focusing on Michigan State. The Spartans play in a great conference and they come to L.A. battle-tested. We have to play a great match against them in order to advance to the second round."
On The MWC Tournament: "It was a disappointment to lose in the championship match of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, but it's not the end of the world. We let the final match get away from us but it was a good wake-up call and I think it will be a positive for us heading into the NCAA Tournament."
The Hits Keep Coming - The Utes hit .331 in the three-match Mountain West Conference Tournament. That number is buoyed by the fact that four of their hitters topped the .300 hitting plateau. During the stretch, middle blocker Lori Baird paced the Utes, hitting .549 (30-2-51). Trailing just behind Baird was middle blocker Emillie Toone at .409 (24-6-44), outside hitter Whitney Webb at a .406 (34-8-64) clip and outside hitter Airial Salvo, who hit .304 (48-7-135).
It's a Win-Win-Win ... Situation - The Utes have chalked up 27 wins on the season. The 27 victories sets the school record for wins in a season. The previous mark came when head coach Beth Launiere guided her 2002, 2001 and 1993 teams to 25 wins. On the flip side, Utah's fewest losses in a season is seven (2004 and 2001). The Utes are 27-3 as they prepare to enter the NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles this weekend. Put the two together and Utah has a .900 win percentage, well above the single-season record .781 (25-7) set back in 2001.
The Dynamic Duo - The middle blocker tandem of Emillie Toone and Lori Baird proved to be a lethal combo for the Utes at the Mountain West Conference Tournament last weekend. Baird was the team's most efficient hitter, netting 2.73 kills per game on .549 (30-2-51) hitting. She also had 0.91 blocks. Meanwhile, Toone collected 2.18 kills on .409 (24-6-44) hitting and tallied 2.00 blocks. Together, they averaged 4.91 kills on .484 hitting. They also averaged 2.91 blocks per game.
"Airial" Assault - Airial Salvo showed why she was the league's Player of the Year at the Mountain West Conference Tournament. She helped out in all facets of the game, netting 4.36 kills, 3.27 digs and 1.45 blocks. The outside hitter averaged kills at a .304 (48-7-135) clip and was among the team leaders with 0.36 aces per game. She capped off her tournament performance nearly turning a triple-double in the MWC title match against Colorado State. She had 18 kills, 15 digs and a career-high nine blocks in the five-game loss.
Streak Speak - The program's longest winning streak came to an end with a 3-2 loss to Colorado State in the MWC title match on Saturday. Utah won 25 straight between the victory over Fresno State on 9/3 and the loss to CSU on 11/25. The win streak not only stands as the longest in school history but it is also the longest such streak in conference annals.
A Triple Threat - The trio of Emillie Toone, Whitney Webb and Lori Baird are an offensive and defensive threat for Utah. All three rank in the top six in the league in both hitting and blocking. Toone is the league's No. 2 hitter (.361) and its No. 1 blocker (1.93). Baird is No. 6 (.320) and No. 2 (1.45) while Webb is No. 4 (.344) and No. 6 (1.37).
The Numbers Game - 25, the number of all-time wins versus PAC 10 schools; 17, the number of games Utah has lost all season; 11, where Utah ranks in the coaches poll; 4, the number of wins against Big 10 programs; 2, the number of five-game matches Utah has played this year; 1, the number of games lost at home; 0, the number matches lost at home.
Connecting the Dots - Utah has numerous connections to the Los Angeles area: assistant coach Burt Fuller was an assistant coach at UCLA from 1994-2000 ... Utah played in the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds in Pauley Pavilion back in 2004. It lost in the first-round to Long Beach State that year ... Utah spent the Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles this season, playing in the USC/LMU challenge. It went 2-1 in that tournament, topping North Carolina and Fresno State. It fell to then-No. 14 USC ... Utah's biggest rival, Brigham Young, is playing in the sub-regional hosted on the campus of USC ... in all, Utah has played 15 matches in L.A., going 6-9 in those matches.
Take me to Your Leader - In the national rankings through Nov. 26, Emillie Toone is the No. 1 blocker (1.94 bpg). Meanwhile, the team ranks first in blocks per game (3.77), seventh in hitting (.287), ninth in win-loss percentage (.900) and 22nd in kills (16.45).
Poll Position - Utah is currently ranked No. 11 in the latest poll ... it has been ranked in the CSTV/AVCA coaches poll a total of 74 times ... the highest-ever ranking was No. 8 on Sept. 9, 2002 ... the Utes have been ranked in the top 10 a total of nine times. They were top 10 three times in 2001 and six times this season ... prior to this season, the last top-10 ranking was on Sept. 16, 2002 when Utah checked in at No. 10.
Potent Notables - The Utes are 2-2 against nationally ranked teams this season. They beat then-No. 16 and 17 Brigham Young, 3-1 and 3-0, respectively, and lost to then-No. 5 Florida and then-No. 14 USC, both by 3-1 counts ... the Utes are 4-11 against the Big 10, 25-63 against PAC 10 members and 41-6 versus C-USA teams ... Shannon Krug is four assists shy of 1,800. She ranks sixth all-time in Utah's career record book ... Connie Dangerfield needs 32 digs for the single-season record at Utah. She already owns that mark with 467 digs in 2004 ... the Utes have hit over .250 in six of the last seven matches ... conversely, their opponents haven't hit better than .185 in six of the last seven ... Colorado State hit .230 against Utah in the title match on Saturday. CSU is only the fourth team to top the .200 hitting plateau against Utah this season. Utah is 1-3 in matches where its opponent tops .200 hitting. It lost to Florida (.232), USC (.246) and CSU (.230). Utah beat TCU (.280) ... Utah is 20-0 in three-game matches, 6-2 in four-game affairs and 1-1 in five-gamers ... they are also 26-4 in games one and two, 25-5 in the third game, 7-3 in game four and 1-1 in game five.
Scouting the Opponents:
Michigan State - The Spartans are 19-11 on the season and enter the tournament having won their last two matches. They topped Michigan and Iowa by 3-0 counts. This will only be the third meeting between MSU and Utah, with the all-time series knotted at 1-1. The last meeting came at the MSU Invitational in East Lansing, Mich., in 1998. The Spartans won that match, 3-0. Leading the 2006 Spartans are Katie Johnson (4.71 kills), Vanessa King (.322 hitting), Allison Ianni (13.09 assists), Nicole Colaluca (4.68 digs) and Jessica Hohl (1.03 blocks).
No. 4 UCLA - The Bruins (29-3) enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed and begin tourney play having won seven of their last eight. Last Weekend, they beat No. 24 Pepperdine, 3-2, and swept both Oregon and Oregon State. Utah trails the all-time series with UCLA, 7-1, but won, 3-2, when they last met in Salt Lake City back in 2004. Leading UCLA this season are Nana Meriwether (4.06 kills, .459 hitting and 1.94 blocks), Nellie Spicer (13.66 assists) and Jordan Smith (3.69 digs).
UAB - The red-hot Blazers (27-9) enter the tournament on a 13-match winning streak, having won the C-USA Tournament title last weekend. This would only be the second meeting in the all-time series as Utah owns the 1-0 lead thanks to a 3-0 win in Las Cruces, N.M., back in 1986. Pacing the team this year are Ivana Bozic (4.92 kills), Casey Dent (.349 hitting and 0.79 blocks), Nevena Stefanov (12.71 assists) and Brianna Galvin (4.33 digs).
Utah in the NCAA Tournament - Utah is 7-8 all-time in the NCAA Tournament ... it is 4-7 in tournament games away from home ... it went 1-1 last year, beating Loyola-Marymount in the first round and falling to Arizona in the second round ... Utah has not faced anyone in the this sub-regional in the NCAA tournament before.
Last Week - The top-seeded Utes fell to Colorado State in the MWC Tournament championship (25-30, 19-30, 34-32, 30-20,15-10) after topping New Mexico (30-16, 30-16, 30-18) and UNLV (30-14, 30-25, 30-27) in the first two rounds.
Utah was up 2-0 in games and 20-11 in game three but couldn't keep CSU at bay in the tournament championship. Utah hit .254 led by the 18-kill efforts of Airial Salvo and Whitney Webb. Webb was the team's top hitter with a .552 (18-2-29) average. The Utes held CSU to .230 hitting and owned the 19-12 edge in team blocks. Emillie Toone's 11 total blocks led the Utes' defense as did Connie Dangerfield's 24 digs.
The Utes were on fire in the first two matches, hitting .455 against New Mexico and .344 versus UNLV. Salvo led the offense in both matches, netting 14 and 16 kills, respectively. Toone's five total blocks against New Mexico and six in the UNLV match led the Ute defense while Dangerfield had a team-best 10 digs in the UNM bout and 18 against UNLV.
Upcoming - The winner of the Los Angeles sub-regional will advance to the regional semifinals in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Dec. 8-9. The Final Four is in Omaha, Neb., on Dec. 14-16.