The Utah volleyball team began its season this weekend, participating in the 19th annual Utah Classic, and is now 2-1. The Utes defeated Idaho State and Butler, but fell short in a competitive five-set match against Gonzaga.
“We got the opportunity to play everyone tonight and that is a good thing this early in the season,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “Especially this early on, I want to give everyone a chance to play. Nothing is set in stone. I think there are some competitions still going on for some positions, so it’s great to see that type of play from the entire team.”
In the first of three matches in 24 hours, the Utes got off to a fast start defeating the Idaho State Bengals 3-0 (25-17, 25-11, 25-22) on Friday evening. Junior Adora Anae finished with 18 kills and four blocks, and senior libero Tess Sutton led the team with 18 digs. Overall, the Utes clearly had the advantage with 46 kills on .346 hitting, in comparison to the Bengals’ 32 kills on .154 hitting. Utah’s key to success in the first match seemed to be its dominance in the blocking game, out-blocking Idaho State 16-5.
Early Saturday morning, the Utes returned to the Huntsman Center to face the Gonzaga Bulldogs. After losing the first two sets of the match, both 26-24, the Utes rallied to tie the match after winning two sets, but fell short in the final set, 17-15. Although the loss was heartbreaking, the Utes had plenty of great performances. Leading the team in kills was Anae (19), followed by Tawnee Luafalemana’s career high (15) and Berkeley Oblad (14). Although the Utes were out blocked 13-9, Oblad tied her career high with seven blocks.
“Blocking for me is such a big deal, especially because I am a middle blocker,” Oblad said. “Utah is always known to be a blocking team, and I think that is something we want to be good at. We are going to take a lot of time to get better at it.”
In Saturday night’s final match of the Utah Classic, Utah defeated Butler in four sets (25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-9). Anae finished with her first 20+ kills match of the season, the 12th of her career.
“Adora is one of the top outside hitters in the whole country,” Launiere said. “She’s got the whole game. She’s physical, she can pass, she can hit out of the back row, and she’s got a great serve. There’s not a lot of the game she doesn’t do, and we rely on her a lot. She’s got a lot of experience under her belt now, and I think she played really solid all weekend, very consistent, and I was really pleased with that.”
The team also received kills from Carly Trueman (13) and both Oblad and Luafalemana finished with 10cq . Bailey Choy, Oblad and Luafalemana each collected three blocks against the Bulldogs.
Utah will continue its non-conference schedule next weekend, competing in the Missouri Tiger Invitational in Columbia, Mo. The Utes will face Rice and Missouri on Friday, Sept. 2, before matching up against Illinois State on Saturday, Sept. 3 in the final of three matches.