Utes on fire, but still working out kinks

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 12 U volleyball team has won its last 14 games, has a perfect 7-0 record in conference play and has the second-best blocker in the nation with Emillie Toone.

Impressed? Well, head coach Beth Launiere isn’t.

“Play tends to go downhill in practice when you go on a streak like this,” Launiere said. “Different things can get masked by winning if you let them and we’re not letting them.”

Not letting the team get complacent has been the task of the U coaching staff this entire season, but it has been a particularly daunting task during the record-breaking win streak.

So what are these “different things” Launiere refers to? Namely-blocking. The U’s best attribute throughout the first portion of the streak has quickly become non-existent in the latter games, as the team has tallied a mere 2.78 blocks per game over the last six matches. Conversely, over the first seven matches of the streak, the Utes racked up an impressive 4.64 block per game clip.

“We’re just not blocking very many balls,” Launiere said. “I think we are going to be a very good blocking team, but we have to work on it, because we’ve gotten away from it in practice. We need to get back to working on our technique.”

Coach Launiere and the Utes went back to working on that technique in practice this week and it paid off last night against UVSC, when the Utes tallied an impressive 16 team blocks.

“So much of blocking is a mentality. You’ve got to take it personal when you don’t get blocks, because once you get the block, it just opens everything up,” Launiere said.

Utah blocking had been the staple of the team at the start of the win streak and will surely continue to be the driving force behind the Utes’ success.

The Utes’ winning streak-now a school record for the club-started in Southern California with a victory over Fresno State on Sept. 3 and still continues today, 39 days later.

“It’s great, I didn’t even know we were close to the record until Beth told the team, and we were like, ‘Yeah!'” outside-hitter Airial Salvo said.

Salvo should be pretty excited about the record-breaking streak, since she is a major reason for why the Utes have gone without a loss for this long.

The sophomore ranks first in the conference in aces (0.49 per game), third in kills (4.11 per game), third in points (5.00 per game) and sixth in digs (3.82 per game).

Salvo isn’t the only one causing damage on both ends of the court, though, as middle-blocker Toone continues her dominance at the net, ranking second in the nation in blocks (1.84 per game) and 26th in hitting percentage (.389).

Toone is a large reason the Utes are the No. 1 blocking team in the nation, but she has slipped in recent weeks, dropping from 2.24 blocks per game and losing her personal No. 1 national ranking.

Of course, if Tuesday night is any indication, those blocking woes may finally be a thing of the past.

Toone and the rest of the Utes will look to build off their stellar performance Tuesday night when they travel to Laramie on Saturday to take on conference-foe Wyoming.

“We know we’re a very good blocking team, but we also know we can get a lot better,” said freshman setter Sydney Anderson.

Kim Peterson

Kathryn Lovell and Chelsey Sandberg team up to shut down a UVSC spike on Tuesday. Sandberg had eight block assists in the Utes’ sweep victory.