Volleyball splits at Aquafina

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The U volleyball team kicked off its season last week in Gainesville, Fla., at the Aquafina Invitational. The Utes drew even for the tournament, sweeping a young Arkansas State team before losing to perennial college volleyball powerhouse Florida, 3-1.

The Utah team started the tournament off in convincing fashion Friday evening when it handled Arkansas State, 3-0. The Utes jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind strong hitting (.472) and stingy defense (only allowing seven points in the first frame). The Utes finished hitting a solid .380 for the last frame and swept all three by scores of 30-7, 30-25 and 33-31.

“It was clearly our first match of the year,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “We weren’t a fine-tuned machine, but I thought that we served well and we showed a lot of heart in rallying to win from a deficit late in game three.”

Leading the way for the Ute offense was outside hitter Airial Salvo, who tallied 18 kills on .395 hitting. She was one of five Utah players to hit over .300 for the match.

Freshman setter Sydney Anderson and preseason all-conference sophomore Shannon Krug set up the nimble Ute attack with 21 and 18 assists respectively. Utah also finished the contest with a solid serving game, chalking up 12 aces to ASU’s five.

The Utes’ defense also made a strong showing in the season opener, as they held the lady Indians to a measly .077 hitting percentage.

Emillie Toone guided the Utah defense with a match-high five blocks, and libero Connie Dangerfield returned to the court to snag eight digs.

Arkansas State was led by Randilyne Volkmer, who sprayed eight kills, and Katie Peil, who tallied a match-high 29 assists.

The competition picked up considerably on Saturday when the Utes dropped their first match of the season 3-1 to the No. 5 Florida Gators.

Despite losing by two games, the Utes kept every contest close, with game scores of 30-25, 33-35, 32-30 and 30-26. The Gators held an advantage over the Utes in hitting (.232 to .199), but Utah led the match in blocks with 16.

“We got ourselves into a two-hour-20-minute battle in one of the toughest places to play in the country,” Launiere said. “It was a back-and-forth match all night long, and it was a great learning experience for our team, especially this early in the season.”

The Utes played a tough all-around game, with three different players recording double-doubles. Salvo led Utah’s attack once again with 19 kills and 13 digs in the losing effort. Whitney Webb also had a strong showing for the Utes, pounding 11 kills and 12 digs. Rounding out the top three was Anderson, who once again showed that she belongs at the collegiate level with a match-high 56 assists to go along with her 14 digs.

“Salvo was our go-to player all night, and I thought Whitney Webb had a good match for us, too,” Launiere said. “She came out and was competitive and got some timely kills for us.”

Toone led the Utes’ defense once again, tallying a match-high eight total blocks to go along with her 12 kills. Lori Baird also helped the Utes with seven blocks, while Dangerfield once again scored the most digs for Utah with 19.

Junior setter Angie McGinnis was relentless for the Gators as she recorded the second triple-double in school history with 56 assists, 11 digs and 10 kills.

Salvo and Toone were both named to the all-tournament team for the Utes’ last weekend. Salvo averaged an impressive 5.29 kills and 3 digs per game over the two matches. Meanwhile, Toone had 2.43 kills and 1.86 blocks during the tourney.

The Utes will try to bounce back from the tough loss to Florida this weekend when they travel to L.A. to play in the USC tournament. Utah has a full slate of challenging games, facing off against North Carolina, No. 14 USC and Fresno State.

The U Volleyball team goes through drills at practice last week at Crimson Court. The Utes defeated Arkansas State on the road this weekend before falling to No. 5 Florida