Shelly Sommerfeldt and the Utah volleyball team host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
Nov. 30, 2005
This Week - The NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament comes to Salt Lake City after the University of Utah volleyball team (22-8 overall) received an at-large bid and the right to host the first and second rounds of the single-elimination tournament. Day one is Friday, Dec. 2, and features No. 4-seeded Arizona (22-5) against Utah State (21-12). The twilight of the doubleheader pits the Utes against Loyola Marymount (19-10). First serve of the second match is set for 8 p.m. The winners of the first-round matches will meet on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 2
Utah State vs. No. 4 Arizona, 6 p.m.
Loyola Marymount vs. Utah, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 3
Winner of match 1 vs. Winner of match 2, 7 p.m.
Quoting Head Coach Beth Launiere:
On The NCAA - "It's awesome to be in the NCAAs and it's awesome that it's going to be at Crimson Court. After I saw BYU got shipped to Los Angeles, I thought we'd have a chance to host. I didn't think the committee was going to send all three (Utah) teams out of state.
"It's very exciting to see the University of Utah get this bid. It's going be some exciting volleyball."
On The Mountain West Conference Tournament - "I felt we had to earn every point in the (BYU) match. We never broke away and we came out and fought hard. I can't say enough about how this team continued to respond to the ups and downs that a young team goes through. We talked about beginning the season with an end in mind. This isn't the end for this team but winning the conference tournament was a goal of ours."
Wait! There's More! -The lights haven't gone down on Crimson Court just yet. For the second time ever, it is one of 16 venues for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. It was home to the first and second rounds in 2001, the same year Utah vaulted into the Sweet 16. The Utes finished the home portion of the 2005 regular season going 11-1. Among Utah's wins at Crimson Court this season were wins over nationally ranked Santa Clara (3-2) and Brigham Young (3-0).
Rejection Hurts - Defense has been the cornerstone of Utah's success the last couple years. That was most evident in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Utah averaged an eye-popping 5.15 blocks per game and held its rivals to a meager .148 hitting. Against Wyoming in the MWC quarterfinals, Utah out-blocked the Cowgirls, 18-3.5, and held them to .102 hitting. Moreover, Utah held one of the most potent offenses in the nation, BYU, to just .132 hitting in the championship match.
Kudos! - Two Utes were honored with conference postseason awards. Shelly Sommerfeldt took home her third straight all-conference honor while Airial Salvo grabbed Freshman of the Year accolades. Sommerfeldt was among the league leaders in averaging 3.58 kills on .233 hitting. She also averaged 2.91 digs and 0.91 blocks. Salvo finished with the highest kills-per-game average by freshman. The diaper dandy tallied kills at a 3.30 per-game clip and hit .247 for the year.
Kudos! (Part 2) - The Utes' run through the conference tournament put some of Utah's best in the spotlight. Shelly Sommerfeldt earned all-tournament and tournament MVP honors while freshman setter Shannon Krug was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Setter. Airial Salvo and Emillie Toone also laid claim to all-tourney honors.
A Helping Hand - Freshman Shannon Krug has stepped in at setter and picked up where the team left off in 2004. Last year, Utah ran a 6-2 offense with two senior setters and finished the season hitting .230. Krug ended the regular season setting an attack that hit an identical .230. During the tournament, she guided her teammates to a .260 hitting efficiency.
The Roarin' 20's - With the three conference tourney wins, head coach Beth Launiere easily led her team past the 20-win plateau for the ninth straight year. The Utes have hung 20 wins on the board in each season dating back to the 1996 campaign. It is the 10th 20-win season overall.
Toone Town - Emillie Toone has had five or more total blocks in each of the last eight matches. But, it was last weekend that she truly shined. Toone racked up 10 total blocks in each the Wyoming and Colorado State matches. She followed that up with an eight-block showing against No. 21 Brigham Young. The 6-7 middle blocker finished the weekend averaging 2.8 blocks per game. However, her offense wasn't anything to overlook either. She averaged 2.40 kills and was the team's leading hitter with a .444 average.
Back on the Dance Floor -Utah is making its eighth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Utes are 6-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. This is the second time the tournament road has come through Salt Lake City. Utah is 2-0 in tournament play on Crimson Court.
The Girl Can Play - Despite missing most of the Colorado State match-up, Lori Baird turned in a stellar showing at the conference tourney. Not only was she one of the team's top blockers, but she set the record for blocks in a tournament match by a freshman. The rookie middle hitter did it by chalking up seven total blocks in the three-game quarterfinal win over Wyoming.
Outside Chance - Utah saw its outside hitting duo of Shelly Sommerfeldt and Airial Salvo garnered all-MWC tourney honors. Sommerfeldt netted 4.10 kills on .260 hitting while Salvo collected 3.90 kills on .247 hitting. The highly-offensive duo combined to rack up 4.0 kills on .267 hitting. They totaled 53 percent of the team's total kill production and 55 percent of the team's total attack last weekend.
Stat Sheet Stuffer - The Utes hit .342 in the conference quarterfinal win over Wyoming. That was one of the best-hitting matches for Utah this year as that number is only slightly off of its .347 average against Air Force on 9/23. In the win over the Cowgirls last weekend, the Utes' .342 average was complimented by 16.7 kills, 15.33 assists and 6.0 blocks per game.
Moving Up the Charts - Shelly Sommerfeldt ranks sixth among Utah's all-time kills leader, racking up 1,221 in her four-year career. She needs 32 more to pass Sharman Grant (1,252) for fifth in the record book. Sommerfeldt collected her 1,000th career kill on Sept. 28 at Brigham Young. Sommerfeldt's former teammate Kim Turner owns the all-time record (1,620).
Team News and Notes:Utah is 3-3 against ranked teams this year. It beat No. 17 Santa Clara, 3-2, and No. 12/21 BYU, 3-0 and 3-1. It lost to No. 20 BYU (3-1), to No. 21 Missouri (3-0) and No. 9 Tennessee (3-0) ... the team is 11-1 at home but 11-7 when it leaves Crimson Court ... the Utes are 8-2 in three-gamers, 11-3 in four-game matches, and 3-3 in five-game affairs ... this season, Utah is 4-2 in extra-point games ... Utah has lost more game threes than any other this year. It is 19-11 in each game one and two, 20-10 in game three, 14-6 in game four and 3-3 in the fifth frame ... 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 won their third conference tournament championship in downing Wyoming (3-0), Colorado State (3-0) and No. 21 Brigham Young (3-1).
Utah dominated its first-round opponent as it held the Cowgirls to .102 hitting and out-blocked them 18-3.5. Emillie Toone led the Utes at the net with 10 total blocks. She nearly had a double-double with nine kills on .412 hitting. The Utes hit .342 for the match and were led by Airial Salvo's 12 kills. Shelly Sommerfeldt collected 11 kills and hit .370.
The Utes snapped a three-game losing skid to CSU when they downed the Rams in three straight games to advance to the tourney finals. Utah out-hit the Rams, .226-.205, and was led by the 13-kill effort of Sommerfeldt and the 11-kill outing of Salvo. Toone led all players with a .636 hitting percentage. She also had eight kills on the night.
The trophy came at the expense of the No. 1-seeded and No. 21-ranked Brigham Young Cougars. Utah won its second straight over its in-state rival, hitting .226 for the match. A trio of Utes hit double-digit kills, led by the 17-kill showing by Sommerfeldt. Salvo added 16. Utah held one of the top offenses in the nation to just .132 hitting and out-blocked BYU, 18.5-10. Lori Baird's nine total blocks led the Utes' defense.
Scouting The Field:
Loyola Marymount - LMU (19-10 overall) comes to Utah after receiving an at-large bid to the tournament. The Lions finished fifth in the West Coast Conference (7-7). Utah has won in all three meetings with the Lions.They are making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and are led by Heather Hughes. She averages 3.31 kills, 4.14 assists and 2.44 digs. Among the top hitters is Dina DeBernardi with a .330 average. Defensively, Michelle Look (4.27 digs) and DeBernardi (1.20 blocks) are tops.
Arizona - The Wildcats (22-5) are the top seed in Salt Lake City, garnering the No. 4 seed in the tournament. They finished 14-4 in the PAC-10, good enough for third. The all-time series with Utah favors Arizona, 15-4. Leading the Wildcats is Kim Glass' 5.35 kills per game and Dominique Lamb's .334 hitting percentage. Three Wildcat spikers average better than three digs per game, led by Brittany Leonard's 3.80 average. Lamb's 1.25 blocks per game lads the team as well.
Utah State - The Aggies (21-12 overall) accepted an at-large bid and are making their third-ever NCAA appearance. They went 11-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, finishing second to nationally ranked Hawaii. Utah owns the all-time series lead over USU, 40-23, and beat the Aggies in Logan earlier this season, 3-2. Zuzana Cernianska leads the team with 4.57 kills per game while Ingrid Roth is its top hitter (.329). Kelsi Peterson owns a 3.80 digs-per-game average while the Aggies' top blocker is Erin Graybill (1.32 per game).
At the Helm: Beth Launiere is in her 16th season as Utah's head coach. She has a 321-185 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.
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: Should Utah advance out of the first and second rounds, regionals are Dec. 9-10 and the Utes would go to Palo Alto, Calif. The semifinals and finals will be held on Dec. 15-17 in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.