Goal setting is something the University of Utah volleyball team has talked about a lot this season and soon they get to check hosting rounds one and two of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship off their list. Utah found out Sunday night that they are the No. 11 overall seed, and that they’re going to have the chance to play postseason action on its home court.
“We’re very happy with the 11 seed and you know starting last year, last January, it was our goal to host and get one of those top 16 seeds,” said head coach Beth Launiere. “For us it was a goal met for sure, and you know, we hope to reach more goals as we go along the way here.”
The Utes, who finished their regular season with a 22-9 overall record and a No. 4 place finish in Pac-12 action with a 13-7 conference record, will play a 22-7 Cleveland State team. The fourth place finish is the best for the Utes since joining the Pac-12, and although they have hosted two other times, this is their first time hosting since joining the league.
The Vikings are the Horizon League Champions for the third straight year, and they have won their past 12 of 13 matches. This will be the first meeting between the two teams, but Utah is 4-0 against teams from the Horizon League.
Sophomore Brianna Doehrmann had butterflies leading up to the announcement during the selection show broadcast as she knew the fate of this year’s team and where they would be playing was in the hands of the selection committee.
“It’s kind of a relief even though it’s not over,” Doehrmann said. “We we’re talking this morning in our group chat how anything is possible. Last year the team that won the whole thing went 21-7. So we’re going to work effortlessly this week to make it all the way.”
As the Utes prepare to face Cleveland State, senior Tawnee Luafalemana, who has won two national championships at the junior college level, hopes to bring what she has learned from those experiences to help the team make it far this postseason.
“Fight,” Luafalemana said when asked what is the most important thing she learned winning those championships. “Finishing strong, starting strong. We struggle with that a lot and I feel like when I do talk about it, they apply really well to it.”
Senior Adora Anae, who became Utah’s all time leading kills leader during the regular season, wasn’t shy about expressing her feelings on her team being ready to go come Thursday.
“We’re excited to battle, we’re excited to go out and compete, that’s all we have to say,” Anae said. “Get ready for the Utes because we’re coming.“
Utah is headed to postseason play for its fourth time in five years after compiling a 3-1 record when competing at home, and the team is looking forward to being in front of its home crowd to put on a show.
“To be able to play in the Huntsman Center in front of our fans that have been tremendous all season long, I think we’re averaging over 2,000 fans,” Launiere said. “I really hope they’ll come out and support us. We couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Round one gets underway at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30 between High Point (24-7) and Purdue (22-9). Then at 7 p.m., the Utes will follow with their match against Cleveland State. The winners from Thursday will play in round two on Friday, Dec. 1. The time for first serve has yet to be announced.