Road trip

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 18 Utah volleyball team (9-2 overall, 2-0 MWC) will take its seven-game win streak on the road tonight against the UNLV Rebels (9-3 overall, 1-0 MWC).

The Utes head to Las Vegas after opening their conference schedule last week, humiliating both Colorado State and Air Force in a total of six games to snag a pair of victories.

Emillie Toone played extremely well in the two contests, racking up 16 kills on 26 swings to hit a team-leading .615.

Toone has a significant hand in the Utes’ defensive success this season, leading the nation in blocks with an average of 2.23 per game. The middle blocker had a stellar performance last weekend, racking up a total of 19 blocks (four solo, 15 assisted). Her efforts were buoyed by a nine-block outing against Colorado State.

The 6-foot-7 junior is only one piece of the puzzle for the dominant Utah defense, which has held opponents to a scant .083 hitting percentage this year.

“Our defense has been winning matches for us and that was no different in our last few matches. Hopefully, that doesn’t change,” U head coach Beth Launiere said. “But I was also pleased with our offensive efforts. It’s coming around, and the numbers are starting to go up for us.”

On the other side of the ball, the Utes are anchored by sophomore outside-hitter Airial Salvo, who comes into the match averaging 4.17 kills per game. Salvo is currently ranked third in the Mountain West Conference and was recently awarded her third MWC Player of the Week Award for her efforts last week.

Sydney Anderson is currently handling the setting duties for the Utes, guiding the offense with an 11.55 assist-per-game average.

The contest against the Rebels will begin a five-match road swing, including two conference dates this week.

The Rebels saw their own winning streak (six matches) come to an end with a 3-1 loss to Long Beach State last week. UNLV rebounded from the loss with a 3-0 win over UC-Riverside.

The daunting task of sneaking balls past the stingy Ute defense will rest on the shoulders of Rebel outside hitter Maria Aladjova, who comes into the contest averaging 3.38 kills per game. The 2005 All-Mountain West selection fired 29 kills in two matches last weekend to lead the Rebels.

Erin Greenwood will try to provide some help from the other side tonight, coming into the match with a .296 hitting percentage.

The Rebel defense hides a pair of gems in their midst, with Lauren Miramontes (1.17 blocks per game) and Jada Walker (5.18 digs per game) causing fits for opposing offenses. The tandem has their work cut out for them tonight though, as the Utes bring in a very potent offense with multiple threats.

Utah currently leads the Mountain West in opponent hitting percentage (.083), assists (14.74) and blocks (4.01). The Utes also rank second in the league in hitting (.283), kills (16.06) and digs (16.49).

Utah carries a 20-1 all-time record against the Rebels and won both meetings last year (3-2, 3-0).

The Utes will conclude their weekend in Southern California on Saturday, facing off against the San Diego State Aztecs.

“These are two big matches for us this week,” Launiere said. “This road trip has always been a tough one and both UNLV and San Diego State are quality opponents. They both have good talent and will be a difficult challenge.”

Lennie Mahler

Utah’s Kathryn Lovell swings toward Air Force defense in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Crimson Court.