U volleyball rolling, prepared for MWC opener

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The U volleyball team will look to extend its win streak to six tonight when the Utes open Mountain West Conference play against Colorado State at Crimson Court.

The long and rigorous road through the preseason proved to be a challenge for the Utes, falling to No. 5 Florida and No. 14 USC, but keeping their composure against several other teams.

“It was disappointing because we wanted to get a win against Florida and USC, but I thought we did well. Overall, I was happy with the results,” U head coach Beth Launiere said.

Utah finished its preseason schedule in Ogden on Tuesday, handing out a 3-0 shellacking to the Wildcats.

Kate Robison came into the game off the bench and wreaked havoc all night for the Utes, racking up 14 kills and three blocks, both personal-bests.

“Kate came up huge for us. I mean, we’re not super deep, so it means a lot to us when she has a performance like that,” Launiere said.

The Utes will need to be firing on all cylinders this weekend when they open their conference schedule with Colorado State and Air Force.

They will have their hands full tonight when they kick off their conference schedule against the Rams.

Over the past eight years, Colorado State and Utah have battled for Mountain West Conference supremacy, and this year should be no exception.

The Rams carry a deceptive 5-4 record into the game and have a history of giving the Utes trouble at Crimson Court.

Colorado State is 43-19 all-time against the Utes, with a 16-9 mark in Salt Lake City.

“We are very excited to start conference play,” Launiere said. “It’s interesting to begin it with Colorado State, but it should be a good match because there’s such a history of hard-fought matches between us. They’re extremely athletic and they are going to come in here to get a win.”

Leading the Rams tonight will be junior outside-hitter Tonya Mokelki, who comes into the contest averaging 2.38 kills per game on .232 hitting.

On the opposite side of the offense is Jamie Strauss, who averages 3.32 kills per game on .220 hitting.

“Colorado State always comes in here and plays tough. They are going to come out strong with good players and a great coach, and they are going to give us a tough game,” Robison said.

Saturday, the Utes’ competition will downgrade considerably when they take on Air Force.

The Falcons come into the match against the Utes with a 1-7 record, their only win of the season coming against Norfolk State, whom the Falcons defeated 3-1. Air Force will try to improve upon its record tomorrow when it comes to Salt Lake City.

Sophomore Kristina Stewart earned all-tournament team at the Comfort Inn Invitational last weekend, averaging 2.9 kills and 2.5 digs per game. The outside hitter will attempt to attack a stingy Utah defense that is coming off of a 15-block performance against Weber State.

The Falcons will bring a strong serving game into Crimson Court tomorrow, averaging 2.12 aces per game to rank second in the MWC.

The Utes have never lost against Air Force, winning all 17 previous meetings.

In preparation for the two-match home swing this weekend, the Utes have been focusing on particular aspects of their game.

“Our serving was pretty weak against Weber and our setting location and timing could get a lot better,” Launiere said.

Robison agrees with her coach but believes the key to success is the Utes’ passing.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on serving and passing. As long as we pass like we know we can, we can dominate teams,” Robison said.

Outside hitter Airial Salvo leads the Utes on offense, averaging an impressive 4.21 kills and 4.38 digs per game.

On defense, junior middle-blocker Emillie Toone is leading the country in blocks with 2.28 per game.

The Utes finished third in the MWC standings last year and will look to improve upon that when they open up play tonight at 7 p.m. at Crimson Court.

Mike Terry

Utah’s Emillie Toone reaches for a spike during Saturday’s 3-0 win against Missouri State at Crimson Court.