University of Utah Volleyball Team in the huddle in an NCAA Volleyball game vs. The Arizona Wildcats in Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Photo by Curtis Lin/ Daily Utah Chronicle)

Utah finished the 2017 season strong, tallying a 24-10 overall record. They finished fourth in the Pac-12 with a record of 13-7, earned the program’s 14th trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 finishing with a win at the Salt Lake Sub-Regional and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. Opening up the 2018 season with high expectations, the Utes are ready to start the 2018 season more powerful than ever.

Utah will open the 2018 season ranked No. 19 in the AVCA preseason poll. It is the second season in a row and seventh time in program history the Utes have been ranked in the preseason poll.

The Utes are starting off the season with strong returning players, especially Berkeley Oblad, the senior middle blocker who was voted to join the Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team. Last season, she totaled 300 kills and 142 blocks. Obald was an AVCA All-Region honors and honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Conference team. 

The Utes welcomed back seven players from last season, which includes four starters and the libero. Utah’s star libero, Brianna Doehrmann, led the team with 398 digs last season. Other returning members include Bailey Choy, a junior setter, and sophomore outside hitters Dani Drews and Kenzie Koerber.

The Utes had three seniors graduate in 2017, which included All-Americans Adora Anae and Tawnee Luafalemana, as well as their starting outside hitter and Pac-12 All-Conference member Carly Trueman.

Five new team members have been added this season, consisting of three freshmen and two transfers. The new players include middle blocker Kennedi Evans, outside hitter Megan Yett and setter Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres. Evans and Yett were both ranked as top-50 players in the country, and Ka’aha’aina-Torres was named an Under Armour Second Team All-American and Star Adviser Hawaii Player of the Year in 2017. The transfer players include defensive specialist Taylor Laugero from Santa Clara and outside hitter Kinga Windisch from Coastal Carolina.

Utah will open up their 2018 season by hosting the Utah Volleyball Classic this weekend. The Utes are heading into the tournament with confidence as Utah has a combined 7-4 against the three teams, is undefeated against Saint Mary’s and Denver and is 2-4 against UC Irvine. The Utes have only played Irvine once in the past 12 years, and the most recent match against UC Irvine in 2013 ended with a 3-1 win for Utah.

Utah’s first match of the season was on Friday, August 24 at 7 P.M. against UC Irvine in the Huntsman Center. Following Friday night’s match, the Utes played Saint Mary’s at noon on Saturday, and the team will wrap up their tournament this evening against Denver at 7 P.M.

Students are allowed free entry for themselves and four guests for all home volleyball games. Students will need to present valid student ID at the door of the Huntsman center for entry. All seating is general admission. Matches this weekend will be live streamed on the Pac-12 website, along with live stats provided at www.UtahUtes.com.

l.gastelum@dailyutahchronicle.com

@LeilaniGastelum

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