Swept away

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 21 U volleyball team rolled to its seventh consecutive victory last weekend, sweeping both Colorado State and Air Force en route to a 9-2 record. The Utes combined stingy defense with strong outside play to grab two wins in their conference-opening weekend. Utah got off to a quick start against Colorado State on Friday, spreading out the offense to jump out to a 7-2 lead. The Utes maintained that lead until midway through the game, when the Rams put together a 5-0 run to close the gap to 17-16. Utah then widened the margin to 25-21 behind a slew of Airial Salvo kills. CSU kept it interesting though, piecing together a 4-1 run before Utah pulled away with stellar defensive play, 30-26. The Utes made a statement on defense in the first game, racking up eight total team blocks for the win. Utah utilized its stingy defense again in the second game, jumping out to a 13-7 lead. The Rams bounced back with a few blocks of their own midway through the game, narrowing the margin to 15-13. Not to be outdone on their home court, the Utes went on an 11-2 run behind strong serving and suffocating defense at the net, pulling the score to 26-15. The Rams were able to string together a 6-2 run before finally succumbing to the 30-21 loss. Salvo pitched in with five kills in the second frame to lead the Utes to victory. Junior middle blocker Emillie Toone led the Ute defense in the game with four blocks. The third and concluding game of the match opened with neither team able to get the upper hand. After an extremely competitive volley featuring numerous blocks and Connie Dangerfield dives, Utah opened up its first lead of the game, 8-7. The volley also provided the Utes with a momentum burst that carried them on a 6-0 run. The Rams fought their way back into the contest behind three Mekana Barnes kills and a 7-2 run of their own, closing the deficit to one (17-16). Salvo then fueled yet another run with strong serving, and the Utes pulled ahead, 23-18. The Rams were never able to recover from the spurt, and the U pulled away, winning 30-24. Kathryn Lovell and Airial Salvo both tallied 11 kills in the match to lead the potent Ute offense. Toone strung together a complete game on offense (nine kills on .467 hitting), but her most significant contribution came on defense. The junior racked up nine blocks to anchor a solid defensive performance for the Utes. “Emillie (Toone) is the No. 1 blocker in the nation right now, and she takes a lot of pride in that,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “She takes it very seriously, and when we are blocking like that, it takes away a lot of options for our opponents.” Toone was pleased with her performance, but was quick to mention her teammates. “I was very pleased. Colorado State is a very aggressive team, so I knew I had to get up and do my best. It makes it pretty easy on me knowing that Connie (Dangerfield) and Kate (Robison) are in back. Having those kinds of amazing diggers allows us to take advantage,” Toone said. Dangerfield put together an impressive outing herself, snagging 15 digs to lead all players from the back row. The Utes moved their win streak to seven the following day when they took on the Air Force Falcons, who struggled to score against a sparing U defense. Utah got off to a slow start in the first game due to numerous unforced errors and found themselves down 14-12 early. Midway through the game, however, the Utes found their heads and finished the game in style with a 16-4 run en route to a 30-18 win. The Utes carried their momentum into the second game and, with strong defense at the net, jumped out to an 11-2 lead. Utah never gave the Falcons an opportunity to get back into the game from there, closing on the strength of five Airial Salvo kills to win 30-14. Strong serves and punishing kills kept the Falcons on their heels throughout the third game, and they found themselves face a 16-6 deficit. The Utes walked their way to an easy victory from there, winning 30-14 once again. Salvo led the Utes with yet another double-double, grabbing 13 kills on .478 hitting and snagging 10 digs. Overall, the Utes out-hit (.429- -.132) and out-blocked (11.0-6.0) the Falcons on the way to the victory. Despite a serious decline in competition, coach Launiere was pleased with the team’s level of play. “I liked how we executed last night. I was happy that everyone got to play tonight and there wasn’t a drop in performance. Our bench came in and did well, and our execution didn’t slip at all,” Launiere said. The Utes will need that execution this week when they head to Las Vegas for the start of a two-game road swing on Thursday.

Lennie Mahler

Utah’s Emillie Toone breaks through Colorado State’s defense in Friday’s 3-0 win at Crimson Court. After claiming their seventh straight victory on Saturday, the team now heads to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Thursday.