Utes rearing to rope Cowboys

By By Cody Brunner and By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The No. 12 U volleyball team puts its undefeated conference record and 14-match win streak on the line tomorrow night, traveling to Laramie to take on the Wyoming Cowboys (8-8, 2-4 MWC).

Utah (16-2, 7-0 MWC) comes into the match after stepping outside of conference play to dismantle UVSC on Tuesday. The Utes utilized a season-high 16 blocks to stymie the Wolverine attack and pick up the victory. Chelsea Sandberg led the U with a nine-block performance, while outside-hitter Whitney Webb picked up eight.

The U offensive attack was on fire as well in the match, with Webb and Airial Salvo picking up 12 and 13 kills, respectively.

The Utes will need all their weapons firing tomorrow when they head into one of the toughest atmospheres in the conference in Laramie.

“Any time you play in Wyoming, you have to be ready for a battle. They play extremely well at home, and they have a very athletic team,” U head coach Beth Launiere said.

Wyoming traveled outside of the friendly confines of Laramie’s Cowboy Court last Saturday, heading down to Las Vegas to take on UNLV. The Rebels proved to be too much for the Cowboys, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back, ultimately winning 3-0. Outside-hitter Jess Srajer finished the match with seven kills and has come on strong during conference play, averaging 3.50 kills per game against Mountain West teams.

That has not been the case over the course of the entire season, though, as Wyoming outside-hitter Rachel Smith has led the Cowboy offense with 3.92 kills per game. The junior has her work cut out for her when she faces the No. 1 blocking team in the nation in Utah. Smith ranks fourth in the conference in kills and fifth in points per game (4.30).

Complementing her on the other side is Cowboy outside-hitter Annie Meyers, who averages 3.43 kills per game to rank eighth in the Mountain West.

Tasha Weishahn guides the Wyoming offense from her setter position with a 10.59 assist-per-game staple, which ranks her sixth in the conference.

Middle-blocker Andrea Seele comes into the match averaging 1.16 blocks per game, but has her hands full as she tries to stop the No. 1-ranked offense in the conference.

Anything that gets past Seele will be fielded by freshman libero Micah Lines, who ranks seventh in the conference with a 3.77 digs per game average.

“Rachel Smith gets a lot of their swings. She’s kind of a quiet player, though, you don’t pay much attention to her, but she always has a good stat line at the end of the night,” Launiere said. “They run a very similar system to ours so we won’t see anything we haven’t already seen, but they have some of the best athletes in the conference.”

The Cowboys will look to break a three-game losing streak this week when they face BYU on Friday and the U on Saturday.