The Utah volleyball team showcased improvements during its annual Red vs. White scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 20th, inside the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Beth Launiere, entering her 27th season as head coach of the Utah volleyball program, shared how pleased she was with her team’s performance during the scrimmage.
“I thought it was high level volleyball for the second week of the season,” Launiere said. “We did a nice job playing as a team on both sides of the net. It shows that we have a little bit more experience than we have had in the past, so that is nice that we were able to get to more nuanced things than we had been before.”
The Utah volleyball program experienced a “rebuilding season” last year ending with a record of 10-21, 4-16 in the Pac-12. However, with plenty of returning players, senior leaders and an impressive freshman class, the team hopes to make a bigger impact in the conference this season.
“I think seniors are always leaders, because they play with a sense of urgency that is pretty amazing,” Launiere said. “I think Tess [Sutton] and Alyssa [Koenig] have done a really nice job, and you also have Madi [Legerski] and Bailee [Kendall]. On the court, we will see. There is a difference between captainship and leadership, so we will see who steps up in the leadership role. I think lots of people do it in different ways, but I would assume that on the court people will step up and we will have to wait and see.”
Launiere believes these seniors are important to developing talented freshmen Bailey Choy, Torre Glasker and Bri Doehrmann.
“Bailey is a terrific setter from Hawaii, and she was the Hawaii player of the year,” Launiere said. “She is going to be good. I think today was good to get under her belt, because I think she had some nerves. Torre is a great volleyball player and will have a role. I am excited about my freshmen. Bri is a nice little libero and has a lot of potential. I am really excited about all of them.”
Although the score at times felt irrelevant due to the consistent substitutions allowing the players to play with all of their teammates, players who exceeded expectations during Saturday’s scrimmage included Eliza Katoa (15 kills), Carly Truman (14 kills), Berkeley Oblad (13 kills) and Jessie Openshaw (55 assists). The Red squad defeated the White squad rather easily during the first two games (25-17, 25-13), until junior Adora Anae switched over to the White team, making the game much more competitive.
Anae led a resurgent White team to a close third game loss (21-25) and an exciting final game (29-27) victory. Anae, who set the Utah school record for most kills in a season last year (501), was dominant throughout the scrimmage, totaling 33 kills (17 Red on .364 percent) and (16 White on .353 percent), with 27 total digs.
“My main focus right now is to start getting some wins and helping my team to be able to win some Pac-12 matches,” Anae said. “I’m going to do the best to get all of the kills I can, and hopefully I can reach as high as my school record, but that’s definitely in the back of my head.”
Anae and the Utes will return to the Huntsman Center on Friday Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. MT against Idaho State to begin the Utah Classic. The Utes will be facing both Gonzaga and Butler the following day, Saturday, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. respectively.