The Utah Volleyball team will begin its season on Friday, Aug. 26, hosting the 19th annual Utah Classic — a four-team non-conference tournament — playing against Idaho State at 7 p.m. Following Friday’s match, the Utes will be back on the court early Saturday morning at 10 a.m. against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and then they will play their finally match against Butler at 7 p.m.
After finishing 10-21 last season, the Utes return 12 players from last year’s team, as well as adding a talented freshman class. Adora Anae, 2016 All Pac-12 Preseason First Team, is returning after setting the Utah school record with 501 kills. Berkeley Oblad will be looking to build off of an impressive freshman season in which she was named a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team Honoree.
“[Non-conference matches] are extremely important, for us to reach our goals and reach the NCAA tournament, we absolutely have to win a lot in preseason,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “Just as importantly is we have to get better all the time. We have to keep getting better in preparation of the Pac-12.”
Launiere is entering her 27th season with the Utah volleyball program, and after clinching her 500th victory last season, she has a record of 501-324. Launiere mentioned the difficulty of competing in three matches within 24 hours.
“Playing three matches in a weekend is pretty gnarly, and so we have a very detailed schedule of everything that they’re going to be doing minute by minute,” Launiere said.
The Utes have won eight straight home openers, and they believe they’re prepared to continue that streak this weekend. “No matter if we win or lose, which we are going to win, winning [non-conference matches] definitely has an effect on how our season goes,” said senior libero Tess Sutton.
Sutton, a senior from Bonsall, Calif., shared her confidence in this season’s team.
“I feel really refreshed and excited, because I know that this team is going to be really good,” Sutton said. “I’ve come in with a different mind set of playing with my teammates and making the people around me better. My number one goal is to be there for my teammates.”
The Utes enter with a 42-11 all-time record in the Utah Classic, and they will be looking to continue their recent dominance, after winning eight of the nine matches in the previous three years at the Utah Classic.
“Like I told them, we need to be like clockwork this weekend and get through three matches,” Launiere said.