Toone-ing up

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Emillie Toone came to the U in search of volleyball supremacy.

The star middle blocker is finding exactly that in her third season, as she is leading the nation with 2.23 blocks per game.

“It’s such a great honor for me right now,” Toone said. “I’ve been working a lot more on reading opponents, and it’s starting to pay off.”

Toone is one of only two players in the entire country who averages more than two blocks per game and is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with on the national level.

“Emillie takes so much away from what (opposing offenses) are trying to do,” junior libero Connie Dangerfield said. “They are starting to have to change their game-plan to account for her, and that’s just huge for our team.”

Last weekend, Toone was a huge reason the Utes were able to sweep division foe Colorado State, picking up an impressive nine blocks on the way to victory.

Rams head coach Tom Hilbert and his team struggled to find a way past the outstretched arms of Toone on the way to the loss.

“There is such a small piece of court to hit into when she is playing. It creates a lot of problems for outside hitters especially,” Hilbert said.

Toone finished eighth in the NCAA in blocks last year, averaging 1.64 blocks per game.

Despite such a solid 2005 season, Toone was still unhappy because she had not achieved her goal.

“I remember talking to Emillie her freshman year, and she kept telling me that by the time she was a senior, she was going to lead the NCAA in blocks. That was her goal,” Dangerfield said.

Well, it’s only Toone’s junior season, and she has already done considerable damage climbing the leaderboard to obtain that goal. She leads Myanna Hellsten of Cincinnati, who carries a 2.18 blocks-per-game average into this weekend’s games.

“The thing about Emillie is that she’s so passionate about her blocking. She gets so excited when she gets blocks and the team kind of feeds off of that passion and energy,” U head coach Beth Launiere said.

That passion has fueled the Utes to a 9-2 record and is not limited to the defensive side of the net. Toone heads into tomorrow’s UNLV match-up averaging 2.34 kills per game and leads the team in hitting .398.

“If Emillie ever misses a kill, which is rare, she just wants the ball again, and you know she will knock it down the next time. It’s just awesome to have a player like that on your team,” Dangerfield said.

Despite leading the Utes in hitting, Toone still believes she has much to work on.

“Offensively, I need to get better position and stay up to be a threat. I’ve been working on a couple of things that will definitely improve my game,” Toone said.

Emillie Toone wasn’t the first Toone to grace the U though, as her older sister Amy (married name Tingey) Toone played her last season at Utah during Emillie Toone’s freshman campaign.

“Amy and I always wanted to play with each other, and when we finally got to, I just loved it. We really connected with each other and knew what the other was thinking and that’s important on the court,” Emillie Toone said.

Coming up in such a talent-rich family has kept Emillie Toone pretty humble to this point, but she has no problem in voicing her other goals for the future.

“I would love to be an All-American and hopefully one day play on the Olympic team,” she said.

If Emillie Toone continues to play at the level she is playing, the Olympic selection committee will have a hard time ignoring the 6-foot-7 junior.

Mike Terry

Utah’s Emilie Toone blocks a swing during a 3-0 win against Missouri State at Crimson Court on Sept. 9.