End of the road

Even though the No. 17 Utes haven’t lost on the road in nearly two months, they are still relieved that they face the last road trip of the season this weekend.

“All road trips in this conference are tough,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “Especially this one.”

While every road trip presents problems, this one in particular could be a land mine for the Utes (18-3).

Friday night Utah travels to San Diego State (3-20) to take on an Aztec team that has had some recent success after an early season swoon.

They started off the season on a 14-match losing streak, but have bounced back to win two of their last five, with the losses coming to teams in the upper echelon of the conference.

“San Diego State always plays us tough,” Launiere said, pointing to SDSU hanging with Utah the last time they met.

Even though the Utes swept the Aztecs in three games when SDSU visited Salt Lake City, it wasn’t without some tense moments. Utah was taken to extra time in the first game, eventually winning 33-31. They pulled away in the other two games, but didn’t put on the rout most had expected.

Saturday evening, the Utes will get a tougher test. They fly into Sin City to butt heads with UNLV (12-8). The Rebels are in a dogfight with BYU for the third spot in the MWC, and have reeled off four straight match wins.

“UNLV is a very good team,” Launiere said. “We cannot look past them.”

When they met earlier in the season, UNLV showed resilience against the Ute attack. After Utah convincingly put them away in the first game (30-18), the Rebs stormed back and took game two. Utah needed big games from veterans Shelly Sommerfeldt, Liana Bortoto and Lyndsey Henderson to hold on to the victory.

For the Aztecs, Kara Moriarity will be the main offensive threat. She averages 3.45 kills per game, and accounted for 14 the last time the two schools met. The senior outside hitter is one of the few upperclassmen that the young team makes use of.

The Rebels have a big hitter themselves. Maria Aladjova is second in conference with 3.84 kills per game, and had 12 when they last squared off against the Utes. However, the kills came at a cost, as the Utes held her to a .064 hitting percentage.

Next weekend the Utes will return for a two game homestand to close out the conference slate. A Saturday evening showdown with Colorado State looms, and is a match that will probably decide the regular season conference crown.

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