Utah volleyball to take on No. 5 Florida

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The U volleyball team travels to Florida this weekend for the Aquafina Invitational and its first two matches of the season.

And it’s about time.

The team has worked its way through countless arduous workouts and has competed in many overseas tournaments this summer in preparation for the upcoming season.

The Utes are going to need all that hard work this weekend when they face off against two extremely athletic schools from the South.

The first match of the season for the Utes will be tonight at 5 p.m., when they will face off against Arkansas State. The Indians are on the rebound this year after finishing fifth in the Sun Belt Conference last season with an 11-19 record.

Hoping to rebound from a sub-par season, Arkansas State has four returning starters and one of the winningest coaches in Sun Belt Conference history. Middle hitter Robin Aaron finished last season averaging 3.55 kills per game and should give Utah some aggressive competition.

Utah has two stellar middle blockers in Lori Baird and Emillie Toone, both of whom will try to stymie any efforts this weekend from the crafty Arkansas State junior.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., the Utes will face their first formidable foe of the season at the University of Florida. The Gators should provide a solid measuring stick for the Utes to see where they fit among college volleyball’s elite.

So what makes Florida’s team so special?

Well, for starters, the team finished last season with an impressive 33-3 record, made the NCAA regional final (Elite 8) and won the Southeastern Conference championship for the 15th-consecutive year.

The Gators are returning five starters and 10 letter-winners from that squad of a year ago, so it is no surprise that fellow SEC conference coaches chose Florida to win its record-setting 16th-straight title this season.

The Utes believe that a tough showing against the University of Arizona in last year’s NCAA Tournament helped them prepare for a very physical top-5 team like Florida.

“Being able to play against teams that well, it helps us carry into this year. We know and understand now what a physical team like Florida plays like,” Ute libero Connie Dangerfield said.

Dangerfield will play the role of a B-12 shot for the team’s defense this year, something that is especially needed this weekend against an aggressive, attacking offense like Florida’s.

The team is very optimistic about the coming season, with goals and aspirations ranging from Mountain West Conference champion to NCAA champion. They are quick to point out their main objective, though.

“One step at a time. We are just looking forward to our match with Arkansas State,” setter Shannon Krug said.

Krug and outside hitter Airial Salvo were selected to the preseason All-Mountain West team for this year.

With all of this talent radiating from the team, one might expect there to be some contention.


Not only do they play well together, but the Utes also pride themselves on having strong bonds both on and off the court.

“It’s pretty easy to gel as a team when the people on it are also your best friends,” Salvo said.

So let’s see. Talented athletes-check. Big-game experience-check. Down-to-earth mentality-check. Cohesion-check.

Now all they have to do is go out on the court and start playing.