Earning their keep

After a long conferenceroad, it all comes down tothis weekend for the No. 17Ute volleyball team. Winsover Wyoming and No. 10Colorado State would giveUtah an undefeated conferencefinish, and the outrightMountain West Conferencetitle for the first time in Utahhistory.But don’t think the coach isready to start spraying champagne.”Nothing is going to behanded to us,” Ute coachBeth Launiere said. “We justhave to work hard and earnevery point. As long as wedon’t overlook someone, everythingis in our control. “Should Utah finish the conferenceschedule undefeated,it would be the first time aUte volleyball team has gonethrough the slate unscathed.In fact, Utah has already tiedtheir record for conferencevictories at 12. Last year’ssquad held the previous record,and they went 22-9overall and 12-2 in conference.With a win against WyomingFriday, Utah would earn ashare of the conference title.The Cowgirls come to CrimsonCourt with a 13-11 overallrecord and a 6-6 mark in theMWC. If Utah pulls out thewin, it all will come downto a rematch with perennialconference power CSU.The Rams stand at 20-3overall and 11-1 in conference.Their only MWC blemishcame against the Utes ina four-game loss in Fort Collins,Colo., earlier in the season.”We know them very well,”Launiere said. “They’ll justcome in and try to executebetter than they did in FortCollins.”CSU is no stranger to beingin conference title position.The Rams have takenhome at least a share of thelast four conference titles,and coach Tom Hilbert hasposted a stellar 99-11 conferencerecord in his eight yearsat the helm.Utah’s defense will need tostep up Saturday night, withCSU leading the conferencein virtually all offensive categories.They lead in hittingpercentage (.290), assists(16.13) and kills (17.38).The Rams have the individualconference leadersin all three categories. KatieShirley-Cahoon has the tophitting percentage with .395.Tess Rogers leads the way inkills with 3.90 per game andMelissa Courtney is tops inassists with 13.87.While Utah previouslyknocked off the Rams in fourgames, Launiere expects CSUto come in with the sameformula. “Their coach tendsto keep things very similar,”Launiere said. “He doesn’tmake a lot of changes.”The Rams can expect tosee a similar Utah team aswell. Launiere had expectedto put in some new offensivesets the second half of theconference schedule, but decidedto focus on improvingwhat they already knew.No matter what the outcomethis weekend, the losingteams will get a quick chanceat revenge. The MountainWest Conference tournamentwill be next weekend,and CSU will host.Utah’s match versus Wyomingis set for 7 p.m. Friday.First serve for the CSU matchis slated for 7 p.m. [email protected]