Volleyball packs packs ’em in

By By Blake Moore

By Blake Moore

This fall has been one of the most exciting seasons for sports fans in the Salt Lake area-with Saturday night being the pinnacle thus far.

When the No. 7 Utah football game was postponed until 6:50 p.m. and the Jazz started their duel with the World Champion Detroit Pistons 10 minutes later, who in his or her right mind thought that Crimson Court would host its largest crowd of the season?

Just 50 fans shy of 1,000 showed up to cheer on the women’s volleyball team in its pursuit of a perfect conference record. Its previous 13 conference wins are the most in school history and a win against Colorado State would have capped off a perfect record in the Mountain West.

As fans arrived at the stadium, they could tell that it was a special event because of how far away they had to park. There are usually plenty of spots up front for the regulars, but people found themselves making a bit of a walk.

The majority of those regulars included friends and family of the athletes.

The band will always send a few of its members, a handful of students will come to heckle the opposing girls, and a cameo by U basketball star Richard Cheney can be expected. That, unfortunately, constitutes the bulk of the spectators at a typical Utah volleyball match.

This was not the case Saturday night. Right outside the door there was a television trailer with high-tech equipment furthering the suspicion that this game would get some airtime. There was an actual wait in the ticket line and latecomers didn’t have the luxury of sitting wherever they wanted.

Once inside the gym, it was clearly evident that it was a unique night for coach Launiere’s women. The band played just loud enough to be heard over the mini-MUSS section, filled with a gang of screaming students chanting the annoying European OH-LAY-OH-LAY-OH-LAY soccer cheer, and doing their part to fluster the Rams’ superb service. Adults and kids alike were pounding on the bleachers and singing the school song in unison.

Everything was in place for the Utes to achieve perfection and the outright conference championship-except for one aspect: momentum changes. Each of the three games Utah came out and played with loads of intensity. Yes, CSU swept them in those three games, beating them by an average of eight points a game, but the Utes looked amped to play that night.

A scenario from the second game could characterize a general theme for the entire match. Utah started off on a 7-1 run when a couple of unforced errors discouraged them, which allowed the Rams to close the gap. A timeout helped the Utes regain some composure only to lose momentum once again, and ultimately that game by a score of 22-30.

Despite the loss, the Utes looked energized, excited to play, and desperately striving to impress the largest crowd they have attracted all year. Their poor performance can be attributed to any number of things: the difficulty of going undefeated, being challenged for the first time in a while, an overkill of emotion, and the conference title on the line. Nevertheless, Utah was beaten by a very good Colorado State team forcing a tie for the regular-season title.

Aside from the loss, Saturday night was a very positive experience for the team. With their success this year they have created an excitement for volleyball across campus; enthusiasm and encouragement that has no doubt been lacking until this season. Knowing the support they have from the university and the community will hopefully catapult them into the MWC tournament with a boost of confidence.

A realization that they have a loyal fan base might just be enough to rally the squad to win next week and make a run for the NCAA tournament.

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