Volleyball Team Will Play Stanford in Palo Alto for Chance to Reach Elite 8

By and

Coming back from 2-0 deficits is what the U volleyball team has been notorious for this year. Both Colorado and Colorado State took early leads against Utah this season, only to see their advantage slip away and the Utes walk away with the victory.

More importantly, though, the Utes also managed such a feat last year against then-No. 1-ranked Stanford. The Cardinal came to Crimson Court, took a 2-0 lead, and lost to the Utes.

That is what Utah (26-5) will focus upon when it takes on third-ranked Stanford (29-2) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament tonight in Palo Alto, Calif.

And while the Utes will draw upon last year’s success against the Cardinal in their quest to advance to the Elite 8, there is, however, something about this Stanford team that might give Utah some matchup problems?Logan Tom will face Utah for the first time in her illustrious college career.

Last season, Tom was competing for the U.S. Olympic team while the top-ranked Cardinal were upset by the Utes.

“We’ve played Stanford the past two years without Logan Tom in the lineup. A lot of our players know her and have played against her in high school and on club teams, and we are excited for this matchup,” said U coach Beth Launiere.

Knowing her may not be enough to even contain what she could do to the Ute defense. Tom was the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and, consequently, has been prolific on both offense and defense.

Tom is averaging 4.84 kills per game and is also leading the team in digs, with 3.45 per game.

Stanford isn’t just a one woman team, though. To spread out the attack, Stanford recruited a very talented freshman who has turned everyone’s head, and has been the Cardinal’s secondary option on the attack.

Ogonna Nnamani is second on the team with 3.87 kills per game, and is tied with Tom with an attack percentage of .328. She also won the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

But in spite of her accolades, she still knows that opposing teams will be focusing on one of her teammates.

“Logan is amazing. I am very blessed to have to opportunity to learn from greatness itself. She is a wonderful teammate and it has been incredible,” Nnamani said.

Even with a roster full of players like Tom and Nnamani, though, playing at “The Farm” [Maples Pavilion] may be the largest advantage Stanford has against Utah.

Stanford registered an undefeated home schedule this year and has won 17 straight overall in Palo Alto dating back to last season. Nevertheless, the Utes claim they are ready to take on the Cardinal again.

“I feel like we can match up with just about any team. Our size and ability to hold teams to low offensive numbers allows us to match up decently with just about any team we face,” Launiere said.

The attack percentage of .146 that Utah has allowed its opponents has been amazing.

As a result, the blocking aspect of the match will be the most important factor for Utah. If Kim Turner and Adrianne Drake can continue to do what they have doing in the past two rounds, Utah’s chances to win increase exponentially.

Offensively, all of Utah’s scorers will have to come up big to pull off the upset. Drake, Turner, McKelle Stilson, Sylva Strzinkov, Alisa Geddes and Katrena Ellett, who were so instrumental in Utah’s victories over Texas Tech and Utah State, cannot have mediocre games in Maples Pavilion.

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