Volleyball Begins Quest for League Postseason Title

This is the week that will determine if the University of Utah’s volleyball team is ready to take the next step at the NCAAs.

The Mountain West Conference Tournament, which Provo will host, is on tap for this week, as the Utes, through their 19-5 regular season play, have nabbed the second seed.

The top seed is Colorado State, and the Rams have the easiest road to the finals, as they will face Air Force, and likely then the winner of the San Diego State/UNLV match.

The other bracket will consist of Utah, New Mexico, BYU and Wyoming.

The first test for the Utes will begin today, as New Mexico will attempt to shock the volleyball world by defeating Utah.

Throughout the season, New Mexico has struggled its way to becoming one of the cellar dwellers in the Mountain West Conference. The Lobos’ regular season record is 5-19 overall, and 3-11 in conference play.

In the two matches the Lobos faced the Utes, New Mexico was dominated in three games at Crimson Court, and in their next matchup, surprised the Utes by winning game one in Albuquerque, before Utah then woke up and won the next three games to sweep the season series.

If Utah wins the match, then the Utes will most probably play host BYU in the semifinals. But U coach Beth Launiere doesn’t want her 16th-ranked team thinking about the Cougars.

“Our most important match is New Mexico?that is the only match that matters to us right now. New Mexico had a big win over Wyoming and is playing some good volleyball right now,” Launiere said. “The MWC Tournament will truly be the proverbial ‘one match at a time,’ and as other teams look ahead, we won’t.”

For New Mexico to even compete, it will need great play out of Anna Reines, who is leading the team with 3.33 kills per game.

Even if the Lobos’ star contributes offensively, though, that won’t help New Mexico stop Utah.

The Utes have a tremendous offensive attack and have players that can hit teams from any side of the court on a consistent basis.

Defending Sylva Strzinkov, McKelle Stilson, Kim Turner, Alisa Geddes and Adrianne Bradley-Drake should cause enough problems for New Mexico, and the recent emergence of Katrena Ellett adds even more firepower to an already explosive offense.

Consequently, despite what Launiere says, the Utes will likely be keeping BYU and CSU in the back of their minds.

Although they did beat the Cougs in Salt Lake City, when the Utes went down to Provo, the team was swept right out of the building. A similar situation occurred on their trip to Fort Collins, Colo.

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